An expert hired to overhaul the Los Angeles Fire Department's emergency response time data collection method told the civilian Fire Commission Tuesday that the current system is flawed and data on response times cannot be trusted.
Jeffrey Godown, a recognized expert in developing computer response tracking systems, said he has been unable to reconcile the times reported by the LAFD's newest system installed in 2009.
"If we can't get the response times right, we're going to have issues as far as credibility," said Godown, who previously worked with the Los Angeles Police Department's CompStat crime tracking system. "Right now, we have to fix the response time issues and that's what I'm extremely concerned about."
The findings were contained in a draft report prepared by Godown for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as he continues to work on developing an LAFD version of the LAPD's CompStat program.
However, the department cannot develop a CompStat-like system, in which the fire chief can assign firefighters and equipment based on community needs, without accurate data on response times, according to Godown's report.
The LAFD's dispatch system and data analysis software produce different response times, according to the report.
The discrepancies were a matter of seconds rather than minutes, Godown told the commission.
The commission named its newest member, Alan Skobin, to serve as a liaison with Godown. Skobin has experience with the CompStat program from his years as a Police Commission member and is familiar with the problems that can develop.
The issue of LAFD response times developed over the past several months, with complaints over the department's failure to meet national standards of responding to calls within five minutes.
Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the initial findings by Godown create concern.
"His findings validate what my concerns were that the department was not providing accurate figures," Englander said. "The thing is, that this is not just about numbers. My concern is we don't have a dialogue between the people downtown and those in the field."
Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, said he remains skeptical of Godown's work.
"From what I've heard, we might as well have a minister of propaganda for the mayor," McOsker said. "The mayor has a real vested interest in reporting response times. We've had three chiefs in three years."
Godown said he believes the LAFD needs to hire one person who can oversee all the numbers developed by the department to assure the public it is responding promptly to emergencies.