LAPD: Clerical Errors to Blame for Low Homicide Clearance Rates

Until just a few days ago, Americans were under the impression that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had one of the lowest homicide clearance rates in the country, with less than 40% of homicides solved in both 2010 and 2011 and 60% of homicides solved in 2012. Department officials recently announced, however, that these numbers were reported in error and are actually far closer to the national average for cities of Los Angeles's size.

LAPD officials have stated that poor recordkeeping and a shortage of clerks led to inaccurate filings with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in recent years. The result? Los Angeles appeared far more dangerous than it actually was, and the LAPD appeared to have a low rate of solving homicides. Let's take a brief look at the disparities:

The following percentages were originally reported by the LAPD to the FBI, and are calculated by dividing the number of homicides solved each year (regardless of when they occurred) by the number of homicides committed that year:

  • 2007: 60%
  • 2008: 57%
  • 2009: 58%
  • 2010: 38%
  • 2011: 39%
  • 2012: 60%

After adjusting these figures by correcting clerical and reporting errors, the LAPD has come up with the following figures:

  • 2007: 75%
  • 2008: 75%
  • 2009: 83%
  • 2010: 74%
  • 2011: 71%
  • 2012: 81%

Let us take a look at how this second set of figures compares with national averages of the eight largest cities in the U.S.:

  • 2007: 63%
  • 2008: 70%
  • 2009: 71%
  • 2010: 69%
  • 2011: 65%
  • 2012: 68%

Comparing the adjusted percentages with the national averages of the eight largest U.S. cities, it appears that Los Angeles has an above average homicide clearance rate.

The fact that these errors were made and inaccurate statistics reported to the FBI in the first place can be unsettling, though LAPD officials seem confident that they were honest mistakes rather than attempts at fraud. It appears that the FBI database may not be altered to reflect the changes now reported by the LAPD, as local agencies may only submit missing or corrected data by December of the following year.

Law enforcement agencies like the LAPD work tirelessly to solve crimes that come across their plates, particularly homicides and other serious and violent crimes. In their efforts to solve these crimes and keep clearance rates high, however, law enforcement personnel must work within the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution by observing the rights of defendants, arrestees and suspects. Though the majority of law enforcement personnel are properly trained and take care to follow the law, overzealous police officers, detectives and investigators may make mistakes or even intentionally violate a person's rights in their attempts to solve a crime, and this should not be tolerated.

At Lessem & Newstat, we offer experienced criminal defense representation to clients throughout Los Angeles and all of Southern California. We recognize the need for a legal professional who is fighting to protect the interests of the defendant in criminal proceedings, and we fill this need with our resources, passion, skill and knowledge. For more information about a particular case and how we may be able to assist you, please call our offices for a confidential consultation.