Your recent article and editorial regarding the Los Angeles Police Department crime statistics require a deeper explanation and discussion than you have allowed. You are absolutely right that Chief Bratton inherited a Department with leadership issues, weak morale and a tarnished image. He also inherited a Department that did not keep crime statistics properly.
First we must shed some light on just what statistics we are discussing. More than 89 years ago, the Federal Goverment adopted what is called a "Uniform Crime Report" (UCR). Just as the name suggests, this is a system designed to overcome the myriad of ways in which the 50 states report crime. The purpose was, and is, to allow direct comparison between cities and states by providing a consistent clearly defined set of criteria for crime reporting.
One of the categories created is called Aggravated Assaults. By definition Aggravated Assaults are classified as "An attack for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury, usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or means likely to produce death or great bodily injury." These Aggravated Assaults are classified as "Part One" crimes by UCR. All other assaults are classified as Part Two Crimes. Most assaults, including crimes of domestic violence, fall into the Part Two crime category based on the guidelines of the UCR.
This all seems straightforward until you get to the early 1980s. During that time period there was tremendous pressure to change the way Law Enforcement dealt with domestic violence. Traditionally domestic violence had been treated as a family matter and often ignored by many aspects of society, including the police. Reform was needed and indeed occurred. In fact domestic violence became one of the priorities in policing and arrests and prosecutions skyrocketed. As a consequence of this increased attention, the Los Angeles Police Department made an internal reporting decision that led us to the current controversy.
That decision was to take all reported domestic violence incidents and categorize them as Part One Crimes, irrespective if they fit the criteria for that crime class. For the next twenty plus years the LAPD over reported Part One Crimes to the Federal Goverment virtually negating the system used to measure crime nationwide. Keep in mind that UCR crime codes are completely independent of California criminal codes and have nothing to do with how cases are investigated, prosecuted or the penalties associated with conviction. California has classified almost all domestic violence crimes as felonies and UCR codes have no effect on the enforcement of these laws.
The Los Angeles Police Department remains committed to the reduction and serious investigation of domestic violence. We have not made recent changes in our response and handling of these type crimes nor have we stopped tracking these incidents. Domestic violence statistics are still available to any and all who want them. In fact we are taking steps to make these statistics more accessible and easier to understand by posting them on the crime analysis portion of our website. We will combine Part One and Part Two occurrences into a single domestic violence statistic that should increase the transparency of our efforts and help domestic violence service providers get the numbers they need for funding.
To sum it up, we take crime reporting and crime reduction very seriously. In 2004, we achieved a 13.6% reduction in violent crime and a 10.5% reduction in Part One crimes with no changes in how crime was reported from 2003. In 2005, we reduced violent crime by over 11,000 incidents and even allowing for the 5,000 domestic violent crimes you discussed, achieved a significant crime reduction of well over 10%. Year to date for 2006, we are at a 11.9% reduction in Part One crime.
When we changed the way we reported domestic violence it was done publicly and was well covered by the media during the summer of 2005. For the Daily News to accuse us of "fudging" the numbers is not only wrong it is dismissive of an attention to detail in crime reporting that is unparalleled in our profession. Chief Bratton invented the COMPSTAT process and one of the tenets is "Timely and Accurate Intelligence." We use accurate intelligence, in this case crime statistics, to assign and direct scarce police resources. Without accurate statistics we will never achieve our goal of making the people of Los Angeles the safest in the nation.