Political News

APNewsBreak: LA sheriff knowingly gave false assault stats

Posted August 11

— The largest sheriff's department in the U.S. still cannot say how many assaults happened within its jails in 2016 and can't provide a timeline for when the information may be available.

The Los Angeles County sheriff's department says it is working to figure out the correct figure after the county's inspector general found the department had unsound methods for calculating jail violence.

The agency also had statistics showing there were more assaults in the county's jails last year when officials provided The Associated Press with figures showing fewer jailhouse attacks.

The revelations come days after a report by the Los Angeles County inspector general found inaccurate statistics had also been listed in public reports. The inspector general's probe was launched after the watchdog agency learned 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.

Statistics provided to the AP in late April showed there were 3,487 inmate-on-inmate assaults in the county jails in 2016.

But sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said department officials had prepared an internal presentation several days earlier that showed there were at least 3,500 assaults in the jails for the same time period. In the same month, sheriff's officials told the county's inspector general there had been 3,716 assaults among inmates in 2016.

Assistant Sheriff Kelly Harrington, who provided the statistics to the AP during an interview on April 21, had said those statistics were accurate as of that morning. The sheriff's department only disclosed that the figure was lower than what was reported internally days earlier after an inquiry from the AP.

In February, the sheriff's department told the Times there had been only 3,354 assaults among inmates, the inspector general's office said.

Commander Christy Guyovich said Friday that the number that was provided to the inspector general's office for a quarterly report in April had included assaults that were committed aboard sheriff's department transport buses and in courthouse lockups. The other figures did not include those assaults, she said.

But Guyovich said the department still cannot confidently say how many assaults have occurred in 2016. The sheriff's department has been unable to say when they might be able to provide that figure.

"Maybe the numbers are off a little bit here, or there, but we're talking about a few thousand incidents," Guyovich said, adding that jail investigators are often looking for trends in violence.

The inspector general found the sheriff's department had 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.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has ordered a review of the agency's data systems and has asked department officials to look into the possibility of using a comprehensive jail management system.

"Unfortunately, these are the consequences of creating a bunch of little systems," Guyovich said. "If we had a large system, absolutely I think that would aid in some of the problems."

Guyovich denied any implication that sheriff's officials intentionally provided inaccurate statistics to their watchdog agency, the Times or the AP.

"Absolutely not," she said. "I absolutely feel that no one tried to tweak the numbers."

The inspector general's probe came as the sheriff's department continues to implement reforms following a corruption scandal that led to federal 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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Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1

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