Monday, November 03, 2008

Defining Unfounded Cases And The Relationship To Fraudulent Rape Reports

This Southtown Star article has a headline, False rape reports outrank other unfounded crimes, which directly and inaccurately conflates unfounded police reports with false police reports, which in this context gets equated to fraudulent police reports.

But according to the FBI, which compiles nationwide crime statistics, forcible rapes have a higher unfounded rate than other crimes. "Unfounded," in police speak, means baseless or false, or "no crime was committed," said Joe Pollini, a retired veteran New York detective who teaches police law at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

The FBI reported a 5.4 percent unfounded rate for forcible rapes, compared with a 1.1 percent rate for all crimes in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

This statistical difference in cases designated as unfounded is where many people get their alleged proof that there are a higher percentage of false (fraudulent) police reports of rape than there for all crimes. The problem with this alleged proof is that there is no national standard for what causes a report to be classified as unfounded.

I haven't seen any studies done which looks at the number of rape cases where the reports were proven to be false (fraudulent) to see what percentage of all the rape reports are proven false (fraudulent) reports.

To support incorrect assumptions based on the rate of unfounded rape cases many people refer to official exonerations which misses the point that almost all of those exonerations were related to perpetrator identification not proof that no crime occurred.

The proof that the unfounded statistic cannot be correlated to false (fraudulent) reports is actually highlighted in this article after the inference is made that they are correlated.

FBI statistics are all self-reported by local police departments. There is no uniform code to identify which cases are truly unfounded or baseless and which are merely stuck or inactive, said Joe Kocek, a retired Tinley Park police commander who now teaches sex crime investigations to law enforcement officers. [...]

"Sometimes law enforcement officers may unfound a case because there are no witnesses, they have no evidence," he said.

Rape victims aren't always physically wounded, their clothing isn't typically shredded or torn and their psychological state of being isn't always hysterical, Kocek said. Most experience a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Just because everyone doesn't kick or fight with every last drop of their energy doesn't mean they weren't coerced," he said. "More often than not, there are no signs of violence."

I will add that the lack of visible injuries doesn't mean that rape victims weren't physically forced. My boyfriend was a foot taller and much bigger than me and he used that size and weight differential as a physical weapon.

This use of the unfounded classification when there is no corroborating evidence means that the increased rate of unfounded rape cases under the current reporting system can be caused in part by the nature of the crime itself.

There is a clear difference between a fraudulent police report and having an investigator mark a genuine report of rape as "unfounded" because the crime seems unprovable.

If genuine rape reports are marked as unfounded at a higher rate than other genuine crime reports that means some investigators likely made an instant decision to unfound the case and didn't even bother to see if there was evidence to support the allegation.

This matches numerous stories I've heard of rape victims being rebuffed with little more than a helpless shrug or being treated like malicious liars when they attempted to report.

The cases discussed in the article which the police determined through investigation and evidence to be false reports are a serious problem. But thorough investigations which looks at all the evidence are the best way to deal with this problem.

Making negative assumptions about reports of rape and those who reported rape because of data which has no credible correlation with the rate of fraudulent rape reports is a recipe for injustice even if the crime victim wrongly labeled as a liar is not wrongfully charged with a crime.

Believing a report of rape that turns out to be false is not by itself an injustice, acting unethically or incompetently because of that belief is an injustice. This is true whether the crime is faked or genuine.

Disbelief during a report of rape radiates itself and communicates that the investigator is untrustworthy. So the details which could take a report out of the status of unfounded are left unsaid because of the actions of the investigator. Yet that investigator is likely to assume that the natural reaction to his/her attitude is proof that the disbelief was justified.

Many false confessions are coerced during the investigation of someone's brutal murder and rape victims can be coerced into recanting genuine rape reports.

Competency and ethics are what are needed not unfounded and inaccurate accusations against those who reported having been raped.

Competent investigators can both believe that a report is valid and look for the relevant evidence which can in reality support or undermine that claim. Too often the "evidence" which is viewed as undermining a claim is evidence which says nothing about the actual validity of the case and instead fails to match the investigator's assumptions about genuine rape reports or about genuine rapists.

For an example of fraudulent claims, on last night's 60 Minutes Katie Couric interviewed a man, Bill Jakob who came to the small town of Gerald, Missouri where the tiny police force was overwhelmed by a huge meth problem and he fraudulently claimed to be a federal agent.

The local police chief checked out Jakob by calling a number Jakob gave him but didn't independently verify Jakob's story.

In two months, Jakob and Gerald police arrested about 20 people and, more often than not, Jakob says he got them to confess. [...]

"I was very effective," Jakob says. "I think part of it was the fact that they were out of their comfort zone. If you're used to dealing with a three-man or four-man police department out in the middle of nowhere in Gerald, Missouri, and all of a sudden you find yourself across the desk from a federal officer, that's intimidating." But Jakob wasn't a fed, had never been a fed, and wasn't even a certified cop. [...]

McCrary now believes Jakob actually made up evidence, like wiretaps and federal informants, something Jakob now denies. But police say those claims bolstered their case against one suspect: Tyson Williams. "Threw me down on the ground. They had their assault rifles, and their pistols to my head. They told me that if I moved, they'd blow my brains out. That they had a lot of evidence against me," Williams remembers.

Williams was taken to the tiny police station. With no jail cell, it was soon overrun with suspects, some handcuffed to a bench. Jakob, who told 60 Minutes he did everything by the book, conducted his interrogations in the mayor's office.

A local reporter Linda Trest of the Gasconade County Republican did a background check on Jakob and learned that he was a conman. Not surprisingly, civil suits have been filed by some of those Jakob arrested and coerced into confessing. Jakob has himself was arrested by the feds and rightfully so.

This is an extreme example, but the ACLU in Texas put out a press release on Oct. 27 which addresses their concerns about false testimony from confidential informants which came about because of drug arrest scandals in several Texas communities.

Yet too often news stories about fraudulent rape reports don't compare those cases in any meaningful way to other crimes where there are fraudulent cases which falsely incriminates the innocent. This failure often comes because in drug cases that fraudulent testimony doesn't come from an alleged victim.

Like it's better to be falsely accused of a felony when that false accusation comes from an informant, an undercover officer or someone pretending to be an officer of the law. I think those falsely accused under those circumstances would disagree.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:02 AM   5 comments links to this post

5 Comments:

At November 03, 2008 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In what percentage of actual rapes is an innocent man identified as the perpetrator? It has happened in the past, in a real rape, some innocent man has been convicted of the crime.

 
At November 03, 2008 10:11 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, I don't know a percentage, but I do know that the rate goes up with certain ID processes which have been shown to lead victims and witnesses toward a specific suspect.

Another factor in convicting misidentified suspects in stranger rapes and rape/murders is the coerced confession.

The third factor which can lead to a wrongful identification is fraudulent informant testimony such as a false claim of a jailhouse confession.

 
At November 04, 2008 1:49 PM, Anonymous Mheald said...

I commonly see rape apologists grasping at all the straws they can: women recant, lots of unfounded cases, wrongful convictions, yet they ignore that these issues are often signs of a broken system rather than "fake" rapes.

 
At November 16, 2008 8:55 AM, Blogger Weasel Word said...

It's amazing how these arguments of high rates of false rape reports seem to fall apart when one reads the legal definition of sexual assault. Here's one example:

Under Article 130 of the New York Penal Law, “rape” is when someone engages in sexual intercourse with another person by some means of forcible compulsion or who is in any way incapable of giving consent.

“Sexual abuse” is any other form of sexual contact with someone by force or without that person’s consent. These crimes are commonly referred to as “sexual assault.” Examples include engaging in sexual activity with a person against his or her will, or with a person who cannot consent to the activity because he or she is unconscious or overcome by threat, fear, drugs, alcohol or other circumstances that impair mental capacity or that makes him or her physically helpless.

 
At November 17, 2008 10:46 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

To all those who quote Eugene Kanin's studies as your "proof" that the rate of fraudulent rape reports is in the double digits, please read my post, Complete investigations used as justification to not have complete investigations, and look at the methodology of the investigators Kanin focused on and selected for his study specifically because of their methodology.

Then read my post, Ethical interrogations and the rape victim.

 

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