We don't always agree with the Los Angeles Times editorial page, but on Wednesday they got one thing right: The new LAPD chief needs to be more transparent.
The Times wrote that outgoing LAPD chief Bill Bratton “has been less impressive in the area of transparency and accountability … The public deserves the widest possible access to department records.”
Without good access to police department crime statistics, and without a solid explanation of how the LAPD records different types of crime, a chief can easily make a bogus claim that Los Angeles is as safe as 1956, and few people will know otherwise.
Bratton did exactly that, but L.A. Weekly called him on it this past April.
Interestingly, as Bratton reportedly leaves town on Sunday, the chief and his staff have still yet to post the LAPD's annual Statistical Digest on the department's web site. Digests from 1997 to 2007 are there, but no 2008 … and we're almost done with 2009!
This is no small thing.
A Statistical Digest is the ultimate crime blotter, with extensive breakdowns of different kinds of crime, where they took place, the total number of police officers on the job, so on and so forth.
It's an incredibly important document, which the public can use to scrutinize crime trends and claims of constantly falling crime rates. The LAPD has been publishing it for decades, but Bratton has decided the 2008 Statistical Digest should not be so easily available.
Is there something to hide about 2008? The average, Internet-surfing citizen obviously can't find out.