Software made L.A. fire response times untrustworthy, report says

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Brian Cummings are shown during a news conference last month. Villaraigosa has ordered Cummings to reveal more data to the public, saying the department "needs more transparency, not less."
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Emergency response times provided by Los Angeles fire officials to the public and City Hall leaders cannot be trusted because of problems with software used to prepare the numbers, according to a report by an expert assigned to audit the Fire Department’s data analysis.

The report called on the department to stop using the software until the problem is fixed and recommended an overhaul of the unit that analyzes statistics for Fire Chief Brian Cummings, according to a copy obtained Monday night by The Times.

“I am not confident that the data represented by the department’s reports is accurate,” Jeffrey Godown wrote in his six-page report to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.


Godown, a nationally recognized expert in statistics, was brought in by the mayor to help restore public confidence in how the city Fire Department responds to emergencies and analyzes data. He is expected to provide an oral report to the Fire Commission on Tuesday morning.

Controversy over department response times erupted in March after fire officials admitted that for years they had been disseminating performance data that made it appear they were getting to emergencies faster than they actually were. Agency officials then released numbers they said were accurate.

Godown’s report rejected the process that generated the revised numbers, saying it was plagued by errors and inconsistencies.

“Both computer and human errors were discovered.... The department will rerun all the data that was presented to the public and city agencies,” said Godown, former director of the Los Angeles Police Department’s COMPSTAT Bureau.

The report noted that two firefighters responsible for preparing reports have “limited training and understanding of the data analysis process.”

As part of the recommended overhaul, the report calls for creating guidelines for handling data, creating a unit modeled on COMPSTAT and hiring two new civilian employees.


Document: Read the full report

Timeline: Follow the LAFD data controversy