L.A. Fire Department’s data expert steps down after less than 3 months


A nationally recognized data expert brought in by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to restore confidence in the Fire Department’s emergency response times is leaving after less than three months on the job.

Jeffrey Godown, who was installed as interim director of statistical analysis in March amid a ballooning controversy over the accuracy of the department’s performance data, is leaving Tuesday to take a job at UC San Francisco. He said he planned to continue working as a consultant with the department to improve its data analysis, which he said still suffered from fundamental problems.

The department should not release any new analyses of its emergency response times “until they are 100% sure that their … data is as accurate as it can be,” Godown said. “And at this time it is not.”

A former Los Angeles Police Department officer, Godown was the guru behind the agency’s statistical crime-tracking system known as Compstat. He was hired this year to trouble-shoot Fire Department data after officials admitted they had disseminated performance reports that made it appear that crews were getting to emergencies faster than they actually were.

In an initial assessment for the mayor last month, Godown raised serious questions about the agency’s publicly reported response times, citing problems with the computer programs that are used. He recommended the department stop using the software until the problems were fixed and called for an overhaul of its statistics unit.

“Both computer and human errors were discovered,” he wrote.

Two firefighters preparing the performance figures have “limited training and understanding of the data analysis process,” he wrote.

He recommended that two civilian data specialists be hired.

Fire Commissioner Alan Skobin said he was forming a committee of police and fire officials to implement a new data-collection program that would track response times and other statistics, including injuries, traffic collisions and personnel complaints.

Godown laid important groundwork for the new system, Skobin said, but the committee would “take the ball and put it through the goal post.”

A Compstat-like program would help the Fire Department, Godown said, but he added that the first priority should be to ensure that the data being analyzed are accurate.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office said a replacement for Godown would be named soon and would probably be an existing Fire Department employee.

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