From Giuliani to Paige to Duncan: data-driven to distraction

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

Data driven public policy – it is a cherished goal of the post-ideological, bipartisan, totally rationalist America we are supposed to be moving towards.  We hear praise in the media for public officials who declare themselves non-ideological and strictly data driven.  Beware of such public officials.

A newly released survey of police officers and commanders in New York City reveals that Rudolph Giuliani‘s reputation as a tough law-and-order mayor in the 1990s was built on a foundation of false data.  As mayor, Giuliani sent word down the line that crime in the city must be reduced.  He wanted statistics to show that crime rates in New York were dropping compared to other cities.  According to extensive interviews among police precinct commanders and supervisors in the city, reported in the New York Times on February 6, the police felt considerable pressure from their superiors to alter the crime statistics.  When the boss asked for something, they delivered.

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