Political motives and auditor’s investigation of Metro Nashville Police Dept
A story in the weekend paper confirms to me that the investigation into the Metro Police Department’s crime stat collection processes is serious in appearance only. The company hired to conduct the audit of MNPD is not exactly seasoned:
In response to Mayor Karl Dean’s request in May for an audit of police crime statistics, Metro auditors have hired a California-based company with no prior clients to help figure out if the department has been skewing local crime statistics.
The company, Elite Performance Auditing Consultants, has agreed to look at police policies and practices for free (aside from travel expenses) in return for a glowing letter of recommendation by Metro afterward.
Earlier this summer I offered the view that calls for this audit were more election year pretense for attention-seeking politicians and less an initiative of reform. Conservative Metro Council members have been the main advocates of this witch hunt, especially CM Jim Gotto, who is looking to make the leap this year from the Courthouse to the General Assembly. Aside from such opportunistic office-jumpers with an interest in keeping their names in front of voters in the news media, Mayor Karl Dean is logically also interested in channeling this investigation to his advantage for a second term.
Ostensibly, the latest report makes the audit seem more like a sweetheart quid pro quo designed not to make too many political waves about a police department and a former chief with high local approval ratings. If the hunt fails to procure any witches, then hiring a company with no experience will allow Metro to evade charges of wasting money; although hiring an inexperienced company to conduct a circus-like investigation of problems that look like they are caused by differences in TBI data collection and those of various municipalities seems like a squander.
One of the inescapable ironies of these unfolding events is that Mark Swann, the Metro auditor who hired the EPAC auditors to investigate MNPD, was hired under Metro Council stipulation that he have at least 5 years of experience. Let’s hope Nashville is getting its money’s worth with him. He told reporters that he believes EPAC will be an excellent resource.
Another irony is that Mr. Swann answers to the Metro Council, which generated the audit referendum that was eventually passed by popular ballot. The bill was sponsored overwhelmingly by conservatives, who used their antagonistic relationship to former Mayor Bill Purcell to fuel their efforts. Now one of those conservatives, Michael Craddock is not happy with the selection of EPAC. The math of redress is simple: the auditor is accountable to Metro Council. There is no blaming anyone else should this investigation go pear-shaped for its lack of seriousness.
Everything that has transpired with this audit since Ronal Serpas was hired away to New Orleans causes me to continue to question the results, which are due out this fall. Even if they offer solutions unique to Nashville, the political motives and tenderfooted consulting render them suspect.