Inspector general to investigate LAPD crime stats

File photo of Beck and then-mayor Antonio Villaraigosa outside City Hall.

There was a lot of talk around the city's political and media corners Monday about the LA Times' weekend report that the LAPD had been making its crime stats look inaccurately rosy by classifying some crimes as less serious than they actually were. On Monday the department's civilian watchdog, Inspector General Alex Bustamante, said he would investigate several years worth of stats to see if we should believe what the LAPD and two mayors have been telling us — that crime in Los Angeles is at historic lows and still declining. The Times story looked at one year and found that the department's reports "misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses during the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2013. Nearly all were aggravated assaults.

"Had the crimes been recorded correctly, the official figure for aggravated assaults would have been almost 14% higher than the LAPD reported. The tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7% higher," the Times reported Monday.

Some city officials expressed concern Monday that inaccurate statistics undermine that system and leave officers and the public with an incomplete picture of crime.

"It is critically important that we receive accurate data from our Police Department," said Councilman Mitchell Englander, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee.

City Controller Ron Galperin said he was "deeply concerned about the questions The Times has raised…. Good decision-making requires quality, accurate data. We must make sure that LAPD commanders have precise facts at their disposal so they can allocate resources to keep our communities safe."

The Police Commission is expected to vote Tuesday to reappoint Chief Charlie Beck to a second five-year term. Mayor Eric Garcetti has endorsed Beck's new term, but the revelations about the stats — and reports that Beck took part in the department's purchase of his daughter's horse and influenced a disciplinary case that possibly benefitted his daughter's reputation — certainly muddy his image. Former chief Bernard Parks, now on the City Council, told the Times he has had doubts about the LAPD's crime stats for years because of high pressure on managers to keep the stats down. "They will find a way to make crime go away," Parks says.

In the Daily News, Inspector General Bustamante said he is “launching a full investigation into Compstat” — the statistical system brought to Los Angeles by former chief William Bratton — that will include “obtaining documents, identifying individuals that need to be interviewed and doing further investigation.”

“We’ll critique the crime measures used by the department and to the extent we find any issues, we’ll immediately report them to the police commission and we’ll include any of those issues in the public report,” Bustamante said.

The LAPD put out a statement Monday saying the Times story was right.

“I want to thank the L.A. Times for its analysis of our processes which identified a similar error rate for aggravated assaults as our previously released audits,” said Police Chief Charlie Beck in the statement. “This most recent review has enabled us to identify and implement additional methods to reduce the error rate in coding the most difficult crime category under the FBI’s system.”

More coverage from today:

  • Ben Poston, the data editor who worked on the LAT story, was on KPCC's Airtalk talking about the story, along with political science prof Raphael Sonenshein.
  • Times reporter Joel Rubin and police commissioner Rob Saltzman were on KCRW's Which Way, LA? discussing the topic.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Mid-week notes: Janice Min, the LA Times and a big move in Sacramento
LA Observed Notes: Times' new owner is a coastal land baron
KPCC names Megan Garvey as managing editor
Dr. Soon-Shiong diagnoses the illness
Read the memo: NYT grabs a top editor from LA Times masthead
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