Last year, Nashville, Tenn., Mayor Karl Dean ordered an audit of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department's (MNPD) crime-reporting statistics to check the crime-reporting system from 2007 through 2009 — a time when New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas was top cop in Nashville. Last week, the audit report found thousands of errors but, according to the report, the numbers weren't intentionally fudged.
The audit stated that the statistics under Serpas "were reasonably stated and met Tennessee standards." Auditors found that 3.6 percent (or more than 11,000) of the 316,739 crime reports submitted had incorrect information, mostly from human or computer errors. They concluded the variance was "within the range acceptable" to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and "sufficient to satisfy state standards." MNPD officials said the errors had no effect on how the cases were handled; a records-management system was addressing those errors, according to MNPD. Because of the computer errors, most of the 11,000 reports weren't sent to TBI as required.
Serpas has claimed crime was down in Nashville for six consecutive years. The FBI and TBI said some crimes — notably rape, assaults and burglaries — were up. Investigations by Nashville CBS affiliate News Channel 5 and The Tennessean alleged underreported rape and sexual assault cases, in contrast to MNPD's claims that those crimes decreased. In 2009, more than 30 percent of sexual assault cases were submitted as a "matter of record" and thus not entered into crime statistics. MNPD officials insist those cases still were followed through.
Serpas served as police chief in Nashville from January 2004 to May 2010, after which he accepted the same position at NOPD. (Serpas served with NOPD previously, joining the ranks in 1980 and serving as deputy chief under former NOPD Superintendent Richard Pennington in the 1990s and early 2000s.) MNPD was audited four times from 2004 to 2009, three times by the TBI, and once by the FBI in 2007. In June 2010, Serpas told Gambit he was "glad Mayor Dean called for it because it will be the fifth audit in five years."
Last week, Serpas said in a statement, "Just like the four other routine audits conducted by state and federal officials during the years I worked for the people of Nashville, I was confident that this review would show that the department took crime-reporting seriously." — Alex Woodward