The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has a data-tracking (and reporting) problem, according to an LA County Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit released Tuesday.
In a quarterly report, the OIG—which is headed by Max Huntsman, and monitors the LASD’s progress toward systemic reform—collects and releases data on several types of jail violence: officers’ uses-of-force on inmates, inmates’ assaults on staff, and inmate-on-inmate violence.
The OIG launched a review of this data after inconsistencies emerged between jail violence numbers reported to the OIG and data that the sheriff’s department shared with the LA Times.
In February of 2017, the department released data—supposedly some of the same data reported to the OIG—to the LA Times.
Two months later, in April, the LASD notified the OIG that the data shared with the Times and the OIG was inaccurate.
For 2016, the department reported a total of 3354 inmate-on-inmate assaults to the Times, 3716 to the OIG, 3371 to the department’s own “Monthly Book,” and 3500 to the Sheriff’s Critical Incident Forum (SCIF). “The SCIF, in particular, is an important assessment tool used by department executives to identify and remedy systemic deficiencies related to force, violence and other jail operations,” Huntsman said in his report. “As such, the accuracy and consistency of the data presented is integral to the overall effectiveness of the SCIF process, prisoner welfare, and Departmental strategic planning.”
There were also differences in numbers reported for inmate-on-staff assault occurring in 2015. The department reported a total of 382 assaults to the Monthly Book, compared with 464 to the OIG—a variation of 17.7%.
For 2016, the LASD reported to both the OIG and the Monthly Book 1833 instances of deputies using force on inmates, but reported 1849 use-of-force incidents to SCIF.
According to the OIG audit, the errors can be traced back to the sheriff’s department’s data reporting systems. The department tracks jail violence data in several databases, which overlap and are not reconciled with each other.
Moreover, the criteria for data reporting to these spreadsheets are not uniform across the county’s jails.
In his report, Hunstman recommended that a single unit be responsible for gathering, reconciling, and verifying all data on violence within the jails. He also urged the department to create a Facility Tracker spreadsheet template to be used by all units to track uses of force with “a baseline set of tracked data elements..standardized across all facilities.”
Upon learning of the conflicting jail data, LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell ordered the Audit and Accountability Bureau to investigate the issue. “This review revealed the multiple database systems that were developed over time within Custody that served as the jail data management system,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement. “This is the by-product of a lack of investment over long periods of time by past administrations and other funding priorities by the County due to numerous budget mandates facing the LASD.”
The department’s new administrative leaders are “focusing on technology planning and investment in the Department’s technology infrastructure,” the statement said. “The Sheriffs new Chief Fiscal and Administrative Officer (CFAO) is advocating for technology upgrades in the face of many budget mandates, which was not always the case in past years.”
Huntsman’s audit is an item on the LA County Board of Supervisors’ agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting.