The Los Angeles Fire Commission is hoping a new task force can clarify response times by improving the reporting system. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 18, 2012.
The Los Angeles Fire Department has convened a task force to address ongoing concerns raised in the past months about the accuracy of its records on how quickly it responded to emergencies.
Chaired by LAFD Assistant Chief Patrick Butler, the Task Force on Information and Data Analysis aims to enhance its transparency and improve the accuracy of its data, said LAFD Chief Brian Cummings at a Tuesday Fire Commission meeting.
The idea of a task force was first publicly proposed in a July 2 letter (PDF) from Cummings to City Controller Wendy Gruel, who had completed an independent audit of the department two months earlier.
Gruel found during her investigation that the LAFD had kept inconsistent and inaccurate records of its performance. Nearly 650,000 of 1.9 million incidents reviewed were labeled unclearly, Gruel wrote in her report (PDF), and events could be categorized as an "emergency" or "non-emergency" at the discretion of the dispatchers.
The group counts 11 members from the LAFD and five who will serve in advisory roles. Two advisers are from the RAND Corp., two from the University of Southern California and one from the Los Angeles Police Department, said LAFD spokesman Armando Hogan.
Fire Commissioner Alan Skobin is counted as part of that total and will also work with the LAFD to suggest any improvements, Hogan added.
Hogan said the member's diverse backgrounds bring a large variety of perspectives and experiences that he hopes will create stronger results.
"There is continual internal oversight... as well as external oversight," Hogan said. "We've got somebody who's been there and done that, which allows us to use that observation and perspective to make sure we're coming up with a better product."
The overall group has already met once and each subcommittee has met an additional two times, Hogan said, adding that the frequency of its meetings depend on the specific projects that need to be completed.
He said he did not have a timeline for when the group would present any preliminary findings or recommendations, but that the LAFD anticipates an announcement "sooner rather than later."
The recently-convened task force hopes to remedy their unclear records by implementing a more consistent reporting system.
Hogan said the LAPD officer advising the task force, Cpn. Sean Malinowski, will offer guidance to the group that will be based in part on his experiences with the Police Department.
Malinowski played a key role in developing the LAPD's statistics-tracking COMPSTAT program, a management tool that aims to enhance accountability, reduce crime and improve communication between officers.
Though Hogan said the Fire Department will use the COMPSTAT program as a model as it works to improve its own record-keeping system, he added that ongoing challenges facing the LAFD means it will still need to develop a unique system.
For example, Hogan said, the LAFD frequently faces "incident types within incidents" that make it difficult to categorize different emergencies, since there are different nuances for each incident that could fall into different categories. In response, the Task Force will work to establish new categories that are more descriptive, a move that Hogan said represents a step toward "data accuracy."
In addition, Hogan said, the task force hopes to make data about its activities more publicly available. It will work to update the Fire Department's website more consistently and include detailed information and statistics about its performance, he said.
During the group's first meeting, the task force discussed a "strategic road map" and divided themselves into two working committees: Data Accuracy and Interpretation, and Performance Measures.
Cummings praised the task force during his Tuesday announcement, lauding the move as a step in the right direction.
"I am truly excited by the broad scope of experience, knowledge and expertise of the members that make up this Task Force and the technical advisors who are lending their experience," he said.
Cummings has also come under fire for allegedly denying Independent Assessor Stephen Miller access to information about the department's misconduct investigations. But Hogan said the issue is separate from the agenda of the task force, which will focus on data consistency and improving transparency.