MATTHEWS, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — An eight-month investigation revealed the Matthews Police Department inflated some of its statistics by roughly 40%. Now, the town manager is trying to right those wrongs.
“We found this issue, but this is what we’re doing to correct it,” said Becky Hawke.
Hawke started as the Town of Matthews town manager in April last year.
“I received some information from members of the department that there were some concerns that they thought needed looking into,” Hawke said.
A month later, she ordered an internal investigation into the police department.
“They did find that there were some issues, specifically related to our case closure rates in our department as well as some of the ways that our crime statistics were classified, but more than that,” she said. “Kind of how that information was then taken and communicated out to our community.”
The investigation found the department was incorrectly categorizing cases as “closed by other means.” It resulted in a 75% rate of solved cases instead of, more accurately, about 28-35%. Hawke says the officers and investigators were getting pressured by superiors.
“We do know that it was a command directive to clear cases and utilize that category to do that,” she said.
Those responsible have been held accountable or are no longer with the department. Current staff reviews all falsely categorized cases to ensure no other reporting errors.
“The vast majority of them they’re finding so far, they should have been categorized as inactive,” she said. “There weren’t other leads that could be followed up on. If new information were to come to light, it would absolutely be reopened, and that would be followed up on,” Hawke said.
Hawke says transparency isn’t just a buzzword, and she’s hoping to regain the community’s trust.
“The men and women that’s there, they’re doing a great job, and we believe in them, we trust them, and we want our community to feel the same way,” Hawke said. “That is why we made this decision to bring this forward and own it and talk about how we’re going to fix it and be able to move forward successfully.”
Hawke says the inaccurate reporting didn’t impact the investigations into various crimes but instead painted the department more favorably. She plans to release more comprehensive data on their findings in the next couple of weeks.