By Brenda Gazzar
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department's civilian watchdog is launching a multiyear analysis of the department's metrics-driven system used to measure crime and its crime statistics after an outside review found more than 1,000 violent offenses during a one-year period were classified incorrectly.
Inspector General Alexander A. Bustamante, who reports directly to the five-member civilian Police Commission, said he is "launching a full investigation into Compstat" 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.
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 1,200 violent crimes -- the vast majority of which were aggravated assaults -- were recorded and reported to the FBI as minor offenses and not as serious crime. If those incidents had been reported correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period ending in
September 2013 would have been almost 14 percent higher than the official figure and overall violent crime would have jumped by 7 percent, according to the newspaper report.
Bustamante said the probe, which he said would be launched immediately and be "much more expansive" than what a newspaper could do, will look at "all features of the Compstat" system, including "several years worth of data" and "thousands and thousands of cases."
"There is a normal margin of error in classifications. (But) one is too many," Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said. "It's incumbent upon me to ask the inspector general to use his abilities and powers to gather more information so the misclassifications, so the errors stop... Even if there are answers to the questions, it's important that we go deeper because we need trust in the system and I need trust in the system."
Soboroff said he was also concerned about another issue involving the correct number of homicides LAPD has actually solved. The Daily News reported last week that the department has refused to release information that would show whether or not they solved hundreds of murders after officials initially offered to present those records.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has said the LAPD solved many more murders than it reported to federal and state authorities.
Bustamante said his office is also reviewing that matter.
Regarding the misclassifications, LAPD Comdr. Andrew Smith said the department was "never going to be perfect" when it came to keeping statistics on crimes, saying there are always errors in miscoding and reporting. Smith said the findings do not affect the overall crime declines the city has seen in the last eleven years.
"This is a coding problem and a statistical problem, not a putting people in jail problem," Smith said.
According to the LAPD's web page on Compstat, however, "accurate and timely intelligence or information is absolutely essential in effectively responding to any problem or crisis." The statistics are also used in measuring the department's performance.
The newspaper reports and LAPD's own 2012 audit have prompted the department to provide additional training to personnel in the field who are entering crime data into the system as well as supervisors who review those reports, Smith said. Anyone found to be manipulating or falsifying crime data is seen as committing major misconduct and would be "subject to severe discipline," he said.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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