I was reading The Tennessean's story about how the police are reclassifying many of the reported sex crimes that ended up "matters of public record" back into the actual crimes they were, when I came to these two baffling paragraphs.
Metro police maintain that the reclassification is simply a change in paperwork with no real-world consequences and that every case, even if labeled a matter of record, is investigated with the same vigor as if it were labeled a rape.
"Matter of record, rape, sodomy, they're all just labels, when you look at it. It's just the label that goes on the report," said Lt. Preston Brandimore, head of Metro's Sex Crimes Unit and the one in charge of reviewing the cases after news media reports raised questions about the rape statistics. "When we're talking about prosecuting or investigating, they all get investigated the same."
I'm trying to give the police department as much of a benefit of the doubt as humanly possible. Perhaps Brian Haas's typification of of the reclassification being "simply a change in paperwork with no real-world consequences" is unfair. One hopes.
And yet, based on what Lt. Brandimore says in the next paragraph, I have my concerns.
So let's be clear: This isn't simply a matter of a "change in paperwork with no real-world consequences."
This is a matter of the Metro Police Department lying to the people of Nashville about how many sexual assaults happened in this city over the past few years. Lying to make themselves look better. Lying in a way that gave potential victims a false sense of how safe the city is.
This is a grave situation, when the citizens of a city cannot trust their police force. That's a fundamental breakdown in society, when the people charged to protect us from the bad guys take up the habits of those bad guys. This is why, I suspect, we saw police officers repeatedly trying to bring the shenanigans of the department to the attention of the public, because those officers understood how important it is that law-abiding citizens be able to trust that they and the police are on the same side.
If the police department doesn't understand how grave this breach of trust is, someone from the mayor's office needs to go make it very, very clear.
The reclassification of these reports from "matters of public record" to the actual crimes they were reported to be is not just a matter of "the label that goes on the report." This is supposed to be Metro's preliminary response to the citizens of the city that they understand that lying to us is a grave violation of trust and antithetical to the role of the police in our city. It's meant to show that this will not happen again.
And I wish Lt. Brandimore understood the trouble the people of Nashville have. The police department has proven it will lie about sex crimes. Lt. Brandimore can say whatever he likes about how unimportant those lies are, but the department no longer has any credibility when it comes to being believed about anything it says about sex crimes.
I hope what he's saying is true and that these incidents were all properly investigated. But it's going to be a long time before Nashville should feel comfortable taking him at his word.