Watchdog Says LAPD Used “Ghost Cars” to Fake Patrols

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

L.A. police are so enamored of the widespread practice of faking patrols to meet reporting standards they have a cute name for it—Ghost Patrols.

An internal report by the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Office of Inspector General (OIG) found ghost patrols “during multiple shifts at different times of day, involved officers of differing ranks, and was carried out differently depending on who was involved and where they were assigned.”

Supervisors or other people assigned to a desk were logged in as on patrol. The patrol cars they were allegedly driving were parked at the stations. 

Inspector General Alex Bustamante said he became aware of alleged ghost patrols in five of the department’s 21 divisions in March, after receiving complaints from officers. Erika Aguilar at KPCC reported union officials got the ball rolling when they complained to the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Bustamante said that in the interest of time, he took a look at records in just two of them, but found enough bad stuff to recommend the problem be broadly addressed across the department.

The new public discussion of this conundrum appears against a backdrop of stalled contract talks between the union and management, primarily over salary.

Officer Mark Cronin, a director in the rank-and-file Police Protective League, told the Los Angeles Times that this was a long-running problem and not much of a secret. The department has strict standards for staffing patrols to meet public safety requirements that budget constraints have made problematic.

Bustamante’s report concluded with assurances that the problem had been quickly addressed and procedures were in place “to ensure that this behavior will not reappear.”

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff praised the report and lauded police officials for their strong response.

The bottom line on public safety is this: Ghost patrols or not, LAPD continues to keep its response time under control. It has in fact dropped from 6.2 minutes to 5.9 minutes since 2008. And LAPD has the records to prove it. 

–Ken Broder   


To Learn More:

LAPD Commanders Used "Ghost Cars" to Fake Staffing Levels (by Mike Reicher, Los Angeles Daily News)

Ghost Cars: LAPD Faked Patrol Stats, Police Watchdog Says (by Sharon McNary, KPCC)

LAPD Deployed "Ghost Cars" to Meet Staffing Standards, Report Finds (by Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times)

LA Police Union Says City Patrolled by “Ghost Cars” (by Erika Aguilar, KPCC)

Investigation of the Department’s Patrol Deployment Practices (LAPD Office of the Inspector General)

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