LOS ANGELES — The largest sheriff’s department in the U.S. uses unsound methods to compile data about violence in Los Angeles County jails and provided inaccurate statistics about jailhouse assaults to news organizations and its oversight agency, according to a report released Wednesday.
The report by the Los Angeles County inspector general found that inaccurate statistics had also been listed in public reports and the sheriff’s department has a “confusing collection of databases and processes” to track jail incidents, which sometimes allow for duplicate entries or multiple events to be listed as one.
The inspector general, who serves as a watchdog for the sheriff’s department, launched a probe after learning sheriff’s officials had provided the Los Angeles Times different statistics about force incidents and assaults than they had provided for quarterly reports produced by the inspector general’s office.
The sheriff’s department told the newspaper in February that there had been 3,354 inmate-on-inmate assaults in 2016, but reported 3,716 assaults among inmates to the watchdog agency for the same time period.
The sheriff’s department later told the inspector general’s office that the data it had provided to both their office and the Times was inaccurate, according to the report. But sheriff’s officials could not say why or provide new data “that it could confidently report as accurate,” the report said.
Statistics provided to The Associated Press by sheriff’s officials in April listed 229 fewer assaults in 2016 than the figures provided to the inspector general the same month.
The report did not specify if the sheriff’s department has taken any corrective action yet, but recommended sheriff’s officials create a single unit to compile statistics and not release data unless they are sure of its accuracy.
In a statement, sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said the department was “committed to providing accurate custody-related data” and that Sheriff Jim McDonnell had ordered a review of the agency’s data systems.
Sheriff’s officials are working “to identify one system including a jail management system and a system of vetting information prior to release,” Nishida said.
The sheriff’s department said “not all data systems are flawed” and that the agency is planning to “acquire a good integrated jail management system.”
Sheriff’s officials could not immediately say when they first learned they were providing inaccurate data and haven’t answered questions about why the statistics provided to news organizations were lower than the numbers reported to the inspector general.
Nishida did not immediately comment when asked if the department stands behind the statistics provided to the AP.
The report also found that sheriff’s officials had recorded 382 assaults on staff members by inmates in 2015, but told the inspector general’s office there were 464 of those assaults for the same year.
The inspector general’s probe comes as the sheriff’s department continues to implement reforms after a scandal that led to federal corruption charges against the former sheriff and several of his underlings.
The former sheriff, Lee Baca, was convicted in March of obstructing an FBI investigation into corrupt guards who took bribes to smuggle contraband into the jails he ran and savagely beat inmates. Baca is appealing his conviction.
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