MATTHEWS – The Matthews Police Department plans to correct inaccurate crime statistics reported to the public from 2018 to 2022 following an internal personnel investigation by the US ISS Agency. 

One month into her role as town manager, Becky Hawke initiated the investigation based on what she described as “credible information from members of the department that raised concerns.” 

The eight-month investigation found that officers and investigators were told to designate cases as “closed by other means” in a way that was inconsistent with state and federal reporting standards. These cases were grouped with other cleared cases in published reports.

This led to the Matthews Police Department reporting cleared case rates of 75% or greater – much higher than other agencies across the southeastern United States, according to US ISS Agency’s findings. 

“The Town of Matthews has been and continues to be a safe community,” Hawke said in a statement released by the town. “However, ISS’s investigation found that case closure rates and crime statistics were conveyed to the public in a way that directly linked results to the department’s stratified policing and problem-solving practices, including targeted crime reduction efforts by our police officers. While these efforts likely had a positive impact, some statistics were not accurately portrayed and the details did not tell the whole story.”

Hawke said the investigation attributed this to  “command directives that created pervasive pressure for improved statistics and results” instead of focusing on policy, consistency and transparency. 

“Presenting information in a more favorable light than reality serves no one, and the directives given within the Matthews Police Department were not in alignment with community or organizational expectations,” Hawke said. “The community can be assured those deemed responsible for these reporting issues have either been held appropriately accountable or are no longer with the department.”

The dates outlined by the investigation match the tenure of former Police Chief Clark Pennington. He started work with the Matthews Police Department on Jan. 2, 2018 and resigned Aug. 26, 2022. The announcement of his resignation mentioned he would be retiring from law enforcement after a 30-year career to pursue other opportunities. 

Hawke said the town won't face any penalties related to state or federal funding or accreditation of the police department. 

The town outlined several steps that will prevent this from happening again, including removing the “closed by other means” designation, increasing training and quality assurance protocols, and standardizing reporting to the public. 

The Matthews Police Department plans on reviewing all crime reports from 2018 to 2022 that were designated as “closed by other means” to reclassify them. The department is also considering new records management software.

The town said these measures will be applied by interim Police Chief K.D. Williams and senior members of the Matthews Police Department. Meanwhile, the town is currently searching for a permanent police chief. 

“The Town of Matthews was and is a safe community and we have a talented and dedicated group of professionals who work in the department today,” Hawke told Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly. “We believe that Matthews will remain an attractive option for police chief candidates and are further confident that proactively bringing this information forward and taking steps to correct it will send a positive message about our commitment to accuracy and transparency.”

Transparency is one of the reasons Hawke thought it was important to release details of this internal investigation.

“We are proactively bringing this information forward because we believe in being as transparent as possible and in the importance of building and maintaining public trust,” she said. “I have full faith and confidence in the men and women of the Matthews Police Department, both in their ability to protect and serve our community with distinction, as well as their ability to move past these issues successfully.”

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