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LAPD to perform analysis in response to allegations of crime misclassification

 

LAPD is currently under allegations that it is downplaying violent assaults. (Thinkstock)
LAPD is currently under allegations that it is downplaying violent assaults. (Thinkstock)

The president of the city Police Commission said today the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)’s independent watchdog will perform a detailed analysis in response to allegations the department misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses in a one-year span, skewing the city’s crime statistics.

The crimes — including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies — were recorded as minor offenses during the one-year period ending in September 2013, and as a result did not appear in the LAPD’s published statistics on serious crime used to judge the department’s performance, the Los Angeles Times reported, based on the findings of its own investigation.

Commission President Steve Soboroff told City News Service he will be asking LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante to take a “multi-year look at this.” He said Bustamante will be asked to report the “results of how the department has been doing in correcting whatever errors have been made.”

“I’m not going to defend or accuse,” Soboroff said. “What I want is more information that our inspector general can gather.”

News of the allegedly altered statistics emerged one day before the commission is expected to vote on whether to reappoint Chief Charlie Beck to another five-year term leading the department. That meeting is expected to begin at 8 a.m.

Nearly all the misclassified crimes were actually aggravated assaults, The Times reported. If they had been recorded correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period would have been almost 14 percent higher than the official figure, The Times found, and the tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7 percent higher.

Numbers-based strategies have come to dominate policing in Los Angeles and other cities, with the figures used to map crime and set deployment strategies, ensuring officers are in place where they are needed most.

More than two dozen current and retired LAPD officers interviewed by The Times gave differing explanations for why crimes were misclassified. Some said it was inadvertent. Others said the problem stemmed from relentless, top-down pressure to meet crime reduction goals, The Times reported.

“Whenever you reported a serious crime, they would find any way possible to make it a minor crime,” Detective Tom Vettraino, who retired in 2012 after 31 years on the force, told The Times in a reference to his supervisors.

In a written response to questions from The Times, LAPD officials said the department “does not in any way encourage manipulating crime reporting or falsifying data,’ The Times reported.

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