Los Angeles Police headquarters in downtown L.A. Photo by John Schreiber.

A Los Angeles Police Department captain Monday accused the department of engaging in an “elaborate cover-up” designed to fool the public into thinking violent crime rates were lower than they really are, and of retaliating against her when she took her concerns to supervisors.

Capt. Lillian Carranza, who oversees the LAPD’s Van Nuys station, filed a damages claim against the city last week and said she plans to move ahead with a whistleblower lawsuit. She contends she was denied a promotion because she pointed out discrepancies in crime reports.

“This piece of deception was done specifically to fool the public and elected officials as to the true state of crime in the city of Los Angeles,” Carranza said at a news conference at her attorney’s Beverly Hills office. “The department then engaged in a highly complex and elaborate cover-up in an attempt to hide the fact that command officers had been providing false figures to the public, attempting to convince the public that crime had not significantly increased.”

In the claim she filed last week, Carranza said she began notifying her superiors in 2014 about the underreporting of crime in the Foothill area, which includes Pacoima, Sunland and Tujunga, but no action was taken, the Los Angeles Times reported.

After assuming command of the Van Nuys station in 2015, she conducted her own analysis of violent crime reports stored in an LAPD database, according to the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.

Aggravated assaults in 2016 were underreported by about 10 percent in the Pacific and Central divisions, according to the claim, which alleges that those cases were misclassified as less serious offenses, The Times reported.

A more recent analysis of the Hollenbeck and Mission divisions by Carranza also showed a 10 percent undercounting of aggravated assaults in 2017, according to her claim.

In a statement to The Times, LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein touted the accuracy of the agency’s crime statistics and the development of a special unit that scrutinizes its data.

“When errors are found, records are corrected and additional training and other corrective action is taken,” Rubenstein said. “Integrity in all we say and do is a core value for the department and any accusation related to the accuracy of our reports will be taken very seriously and investigated as a potential disciplinary matter.”

Carranza lodged multiple complaints about the data discrepancies and in September was told by a supervisor that she would not receive a promotion to commander because she was “meddling into others’ business,” according to the claim. She is seeking damages for lost wages and pension money from missing the promotion as well as for emotional distress and unspecified physical injuries.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing rank- and-file officers, issued a statement urging the city to investigate Carranza’s allegations.

“Our elected officials must be provided with accurate crime data to base very tough decisions upon, and when that data is repeatedly shown to be false, it brings into question the very legitimacy of crime-fighting programs and initiatives being undertaken,” according to the union. “This recent allegation of underreporting of crime in Los Angeles should be taken very seriously. If found to be true, then swift action must be taken to remedy this unacceptable situation, not just another round of lip service.”

The latest allegations come after a 2014 Los Angeles Times investigation found that the LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one- year span ending in September 2013. If recorded correctly, the figures for aggravated assaults in the yearlong period would have been nearly 14 percent higher, The Times found.

The newspaper also found that from 2005 to fall 2012, the LAPD misclassified an estimated 14,000 aggravated assaults as minor offenses, artificially lowering the city’s violent crime rate.

After The Times’ reports, a 2015 audit by the LAPD’s inspector general estimated the department misclassified more than 25,000 aggravated assaults as minor incidents from 2008 to 2014.

—City News Service

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