Trust but ver­ify LAPD stats

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

IT MAY WELL BE that LAPD Capt. Lil­lian Car­ranza’s claims that the depart­ment in­ten­tion­ally un­der­re­ports vi­o­lent crime are noth­ing but “damn lies,” as Chief Char­lie Beck said ear­lier this week. Los Angeles is na­tion­ally rec­og­nized for the in­tegrity of its gath­er­ing and re­port­ing of crime num­bers. It has a data in­tegrity unit that scours the re­ports to en­sure that the books are not cooked. And Car­ranza has a per­sonal ax to grind — her al­le­ga­tions come as part of a claim in which she says she was de­nied a pro­mo­tion.

Still, it would be eas­ier to dis­miss her as­ser­tions out of hand were it not for the fact that a 2014 Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion found wide­spread mis­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of vi­o­lent crimes as mi­nor of­fenses, and if the LAPD’s in­spec­tor gen­eral had not made sim­i­lar find­ings the fol­low­ing year. The depart­ment was in­deed un­der­re­port­ing vi­o­lent crime in L.A.

Those er­rors ap­par­ently were un­in­ten­tional, the in­spec­tor gen­eral re­ported. But the LAPD now has a record of re­leas­ing bad num­bers, so it’s hard to have un­qual­i­fied con­fi­dence in the face of new al­le­ga­tions.

It goes with­out say­ing that ac­cu­rate crime num­bers are es­sen­tial not just for ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient polic­ing but to prop­erly in­form the pub­lic about their risks and their safety, and to en­sure sen­si­ble crim­i­nal jus­tice laws and poli­cies.

If the in­spec­tor gen­eral and the civil­ian Po­lice Com­mis­sion must triple-check the in­tegrity of the crime num­bers, over and over, so be it. Beck’s strong de­nial is wel­come, but let’s not wait un­til Car­ranza’s claims are tested in court. The com­mis­sion ought to do what it must to re­as­sure it­self, and the pub­lic, that the LAPD’s crime num­bers are ac­cu­rate. And, if they are not, whether the fudg­ing is in­ten­tional. The at­ti­tude to­ward the depart­ment and its data must be to trust — but ver­ify.

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