|Los Angeles: Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) responds to the LA Times report that it used incorrect FBI codes to classify “Aggravated Assaults” during a one-year period.
Consistent with the Chief’s top priority of openness and transparency, the LAPD assisted the LA Times with its investigation during the past several months and provided unprecedented access and information for its story. The LAPD provided access to over 94,000 crime records, held several meetings with command staff and crime classification experts, provided exclusive access to the Department’s auditors to understand the processes and procedures in place, and provided numerous audits, statistical reports and analyses.
As always, the LAPD’s crime coding process under the FBI’s system has been open, transparent, and cognizant that improvements are a necessary, continuous process. When errors were pointed out to the Department, they were corrected immediately and additional measures have been put in place to further improve the Department’s coding systems.
The Times findings’ are consistent with the LAPD’s previously publicly reported audits of “Aggravated Assault” reporting. The LAPD proactively conducts audits that comply with national auditing standards and previously reported the same error rate identified by the Times.
The LA Times’ findings do not change the relative year-to-year declines in crime over the past eleven years. The LA Times’ analysis examines the error rate for “aggravated assaults” during a single year of crime statistics. It does not draw any conclusions regarding the error rates for prior years. The LAPD has long recognized that an error rate exists for every year due to the complex nature of coding crimes charged under California law and converting the crimes to the FBI’s coding system for reporting purposes. Therefore, the year-to-year comparisons and the consistent decline in crime over the past eleven years remains valid.
The LAPD and LA Times’ findings do not affect homicide rates, robberies, rapes or any of the property crimes (which constitute 84% of all Part I crime) reported to the FBI. The LA Times’ finding of 1,200 miscoded crimes constitutes only 1.3% of the 94,000 crimes reported during the same time period.
The LA Times identified coding errors under the FBI’s coding system, not errors in the seriousness of the crimes charged under California law. Crimes are charged and prosecuted using California’s criminal laws, not the FBI’s coding system. The cases cited by the LA Times noted that the suspects were charged with the appropriate provisions of California law, often as felony crimes, consistent with the seriousness of the offenses. The LA Times recognized that serious crimes such as spousal abuse are often difficult to code under the FBI’s system because both a felony or misdemeanor spousal abuse may constitute an “aggravated assault” under the FBI’s definition depending on the specific facts of the case. Because personnel must evaluate each case independently of the definitions under California law, the system is inherently subject to human error. The LA Times’ identified cases involving miscoding, not mishandling, of crimes reported to the FBI.
The Department has already used many of the LA Times’ findings to improve its coding of assault crimes and will continue improving its systems through ongoing audits, reviews, inspections and investigations.
STATEMENT OF POLICE CHIEF CHARLIE BECK
“During my tenure as Chief of Police, the Department has been dedicated to openness and transparency in the reporting of crime and the complex processes of classifying crime under the FBI’s specialized coding system. This openness has enabled public access, scrutiny, and criticism of our processes and has enabled our continuous improvement over the past several years. I want to thank the LA Times for its analysis of our processes which identified a similar error rate for aggravated assaults as our previously released audits. 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.”
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