LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s principal watchdog agency has issued a scathing report on the department’s methods for collecting data about violence in the jails it manages, asserting that its findings are unreliable and, at times, inaccurate, it was reported Wednesday.
In a 17-page report, Inspector General Max Huntsman calls into question whether the department “is in control of itself” as it continues to implement reforms a few years after an abuse scandal rocked the nation’s largest jail system, the Los Angeles Times reported. [Read The Times article here.]
“They themselves said that they didn’t believe their own data,” Huntsman said, according to The Times. “If they can’t assess themselves, and if they can’t tell us what’s going on in their own department, then we can’t assess them.”
Huntsman said his review was prompted by questions earlier this year from the Los Angeles Times about why the department was reporting inconsistent numbers of inmate-on-inmate assaults.
The department told The Times in the spring that it could not stand by the inmate assault statistics it had previously issued to the newspaper and to the inspector general’s office, which had already published the numbers in a few of its reports, and that it would review its data systems.
Huntsman’s office found the department tracks jail incidents using various types of software that are incompatible with one another, and sometimes allow for duplicate entries and other times enable multiple events to be listed as one. As a result, the numbers that the department collects for its internal records versus the statistics it reports to outside agencies can diverge significantly.
In one example cited by Huntsman, the department recorded in an internal report that there were 382 inmate-on-staff assaults in 2015 but told the inspector general’s office there were 464 that year. He described this as a 17.7 percent variance.
Assistant Sheriff Kelly Harrington told The Times he agrees with many of the inspector general’s findings and that the department would be better served by an integrated jail data system with one repository for information. But he said creating a streamlined jail management system “has not been a top priority” in the year-and-a-half he’s been with the Sheriff’s Department.
The Sheriff’s Information Bureau addressed its data collection methods in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. Read the entire statement below:
The Sheriff and the current administration are committed to providing accurate custody-related data.
When the Sheriff learned about the conflicting Custody data, he ordered the Audit and Accountability Bureau to conduct a review of the custody data systems. This review revealed the multiple database systems that were developed over time within Custody that served as the jail data management system. 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 Sheriff, prior to the publication of the OIG’s (Office of Inspector General) report had requested a comprehensive data solution to serve the Department’s data collection mandate by identifying among other data management mandates, a jail data management system. Our goal is to identity and establish systems of record to in order to provide accurate data.
The LASD has new administrative leadership that is focusing on technology planning and investment in the Departments technology infrastructure. 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.
The Administrative Services Bureau and the Data Systems Bureau are working with our Custody units to identify one system, including a jail management system and a system of vetting information prior to release.
Meanwhile, not all data systems are flawed, but our goal is to be accountable to one data system for consistency and then centralizing the fact checking and dissemination process. Providing good data is extremely important and our plan moving forward is to acquire a good integrated jail management system.
Also, it is incomplete and arguably inaccurate to report that the Department is not in control of itself or to declare that all data is inaccurate or to imply that there is a lack of oversight on these matters. The reporter in this case, asked a narrow set of questions without regard to understanding the context of complex data collection systems and the challenge also of meeting budget mandates. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-sheriff-statistics-20170808-story.html
The Custody staff works with the Office of Inspector General, Monitors from the Department of Justice, Monitors from the Rosas Agreement and several other oversight entities related to the use of force and inmate complaints. There have been several areas Custody Executives have been focusing on, such as minimizing unnecessary and inappropriate use of force, providing appropriate supervision and training to custody staff, and attempting to create an access to care unit to provide the appropriate level of medical and mental health care in the jails.