For at least eight years, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has been manipulating the city’s crime stats in order to appear as though serious assaults have lowered. Although top LAPD officials admitted to misclassifying the crime data for nearly a decade, several current and retired LAPD officers blame the data manipulation on the constant pressure from division captains to meet crime reduction goals.
According to a recent Los Angeles Times investigation, the LAPD misclassified an estimated 14,000 serious assaults as minor offenses. Between 2005 and 2012, violent crime was actually 7 percent higher than the LAPD reported, and the number of serious assaults was 16 percent higher. From 2012 to 2013, the LAPD mislabeled roughly 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses to improve their crime stats.
The analysis found that misclassified cases often involved violence resulting in serious bodily injuries. In 2009, April Taylor was arrested after stabbing her boyfriend in the stomach with a 6-inch kitchen knife. Although Taylor was later found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, her case was mislabeled in the LAPD’s crime database as a “simple assault.”
The Times also found multiple examples of serious crimes that the LAPD database dismissed as minor offenses. In 2012, William Wisdom was arrested for pulling a gun on a man. Although Wisdom was found guilty of brandishing a firearm, the LAPD misclassified his crime as a minor one.
“We know this can have a corrosive effect on the public’s trust of our reporting,” stated Asst. Chief Michel Moore, who oversees the LAPD’s system for tracking crime. “That’s why we are committed to…eliminating as much of the error as possible.”
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has publicly acknowledged the misclassification errors and has implemented a series of reforms to improve internal accountability. But several current and retired LAPD officers blame the data manipulation on division captains obsessed with improving their crime stats in order to receive promotions. Instead of actually reducing crime, many division captains encourage officers to tweak their numbers to appear as though the crime rate in their district has lowered.
According to an internal police audit released last week, aggravated assaults were actually 23 percent higher than previously reported for 2014. Chief Beck expects his reforms will improve the accuracy of the misreported data, but after at least eight years of deceit with no accountability, officers appear more motivated to falsify the data instead of accurately reporting serious assaults. Instead of punishing those responsible for falsifying crime data for nearly a decade, the LAPD seems content with promoting them and their supervisors for perpetuating a well-known lie.
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