Or why you may not get the response you are hoping for when you call 911. Data-Based Decisionmaking Works Great, Til Someone Cheats.
OK, for the purposes of this blog, I am interested in the impacts “cheating” or fudging the definition of the numbers around 911 response time. (What those of us in the data management know as metadata.) Personally I think some of the other cheats are just to be expected.
A guy who taught .gov employees discovers that the scores of the those with the lowest scores are eliminated from the city reporting. (Makes the average score go up, and the city workers look smarter/better trained than they actually are.) Or the case in Atlanta where teachers and administrators changed the grades of students on standardized tests to make them look better and save the teachers’ jobs. But the best one is…
A few years back, the Ohio auditor told us this story: “If there’s an oil spill and fish die, you send a biologist out to count dead critters. They get a [certain] amount for each dead critter [they find], and they send you the bill. I’m not saying anyone is cheating, but how can you possibly consider those numbers reliable?”
I’m sure those numbers are 100% authentic!
On the subject of 911, they often screw with the definition of “how long does it take.”
One of the areas in which measurements frequently leave misleading impressions is emergency response time. David Ammons, professor of public administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells us that when local governments report the average emergency response time, citizens and members of the city council tend to think that it is a measure of the time from when a citizen calls with a 911 emergency until the emergency unit rolls up onto the scene.
But in fact, the stopwatch may start when emergency units are dispatched, not when the calls come in. That means that citizens and council members may believe the emergency response time in their city is around six minutes when it may actually be eight minutes once the time between calls and dispatch is figured in.
Cooking the books is a time-honored tradition among thieves, and, it would seem, government employees.