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LAPD admits errors in how it reports crime statistics to the FBI

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck finds himself in a tangle of controversies as the L.A. Police Commission decides whether he should have another five years as police chief.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck finds himself in a tangle of controversies as the L.A. Police Commission decides whether he should have another five years as police chief.

The Los Angeles police inspector general will open an investigation into the accuracy of crime statistics reported by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police officials admitted making errors in reporting crime statistics to the FBI after a Los Angeles Times investigation highlighted hundreds of misclassified crimes. The revelation comes one day before city officials will decide if Police Chief Charlie Beck gets reappointed to serve another five years, as he's requested.

The newspaper’s investigation found the LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year period in 2013 as minor offenses. Some of the misidentification occurred when detectives neglected to upgrade a domestic violence incident from a simple assault to an aggravated assault after follow-up interviews and investigations.

The LAPD released a statement Monday acknowledging the errors.

“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.”

The LAPD said the investigation findings were consistent with the department’s previous internal audits into how the department reported aggravated assaults to the FBI.

Defending its 11-year streak of declining crime rates, the LAPD said the newspaper’s investigation doesn’t draw conclusions about reporting errors in previous years. It also said though the crimes were erroneously reporting to the FBI, they were prosecuted appropriately as required by California law, according to the LAPD’s written response. 

Criminology experts and the public use FBI crime statistics reported by police departments all over the country to determine how safe a city is.  Police also rely on them to evaluate what parts of the city to patrol most heavily.

More: A day before Police Commission meeting, a look at Chief Beck’s tenure

Police Commissioner Robert Saltzman said the commission needs to make sure the LAPD puts out accurate crime reports in the future so that resources and officer assignments are deployed accurately.

Saltzman said there’s also a larger concern about whether there is a culture developing within the LAPD that inappropriate behavior is acceptable as long as it is not discovered or reported.

“So in this case specifically, the commission and the department need to consider whether the focus and pressure on the crime statistics -- to continue year after year to perhaps unrealistically show declines in crime -- are so extraordinary that that pressure may be having unintended results,” he said.

Saltzman pointed to the investigation of LAPD “ghost cars” as an examples of too much pressure being exerted on supervisors and officers to perform. The police inspector general is supposed to release his report on whether LAPD captains lied about how many officers they had patrolling neighborhoods in police cars. 

Chief Beck has found himself in a swirl of controversies in recent weeks. He’s been questioned about what rank-and-file officers have called inconsistent discipline and favoritism. Most recently, Beck has had to back track on statements he made about having no any involvement in the department's purchase of a horse from his daughter, an LAPD police officer.

On Tuesday, the L.A. Police Commission will vote and discuss publicly their decision to give Beck another five years as police chief.

Both Saltzman and Police Commissioner Paula Madison have declined to say how they will vote. Madison said she has had concerns about the department’s transparency and process but would not discuss how she will evaluate Beck’s performance.  

Commissioners Steve Soboroff, Kathleen Kim, and Sandra Figueroa-Villa have not returned calls for comment.