“Last year, as the number of police shootings soared, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck [above] repeatedly gave his bosses and the public an explanation: Officers were discharging their weapons more because they were coming under attack more,” latimes.comreports. “He bolstered his assertion with LAPD statistics that showed an increase in the number of assaults on officers.” Yes, well, “Alex Bustamante, the inspector general for the Los Angeles Police Commission, which oversees the LAPD, scrutinized the 2011 assault and shooting figures in a report he will present to the commission Tuesday. In the report, he challenged the way the LAPD tallies assaults on officers, suggesting it is misleading.” Ya think? How’s this for statistical manipulation . . .
Attacks on officers are tallied based on the number of officers present when assaults occur. By contrast, the department counts an officer-involved shooting as a single event regardless of how many officers open fire. In an incident in April 2011, for example, in which a suspect shot at police from inside a house, the LAPD counted 16 assaults on officers and one officer-involved shooting, despite the fact that 15 officers fired their weapons.
When Bustamante recalculated last year’s assault total to count the number of incidents instead of officers, he counted 106 attacks — a 45% drop from the department’s total. And, instead of a double-digit increase that Beck had contended, Bustamante said the number of assaults was actually about even from 2010 to 2011.
Funny how that worked out.
As we’re taking a close look at the Chief’s inflationary data dump, how about we define terms? What, for example, constitutes an “assault” on a police officer?
A study of 9700 officers by the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance (reported by the Force Science Institute) revealed that “about 7% of officers were exposed to blood borne pathogens–63% of those via direct physical contact, 25% through spitting, and 12% from needle sticks.”
Do the LA po-po’s bean counters consider spitting on an officer an assault?
It was not clear from the report what kind of danger the officers faced in each attack. Other than briefly mentioning the April incident, in which one officer was shot in the jaw and the others traded fire with the suspect, Bustamante did not discuss the details of any attack.
Lesson learned: if you’re a police chief looking for sympathy (i.e. funding and free reign) stats are your friend. Just don’t get caught in the data massage parlor.