How False Allegations are Made in Hell

May 25, 2012

The City of Los Angeles has a Domestic Violence Task Force, DVTF. Mostly it is composed of publicly funded contractors bent on “advising” the City on their own contracts with the City they are contracted to..

I have attended several meetings of the DVTF sub-committee on “Law Enforcement.” Each session has had an LAPD Training representative surrounded by probing and prodding contractors. If there is a character to this, it is completely expressed in the website of the committee chair.

Recently a new LAPD Training representative has appeared who calls herself a “great politician.” The committee has agreed to work on a new LAPD Training “module” regarding strangulation because strangulation was recently added to the California domestic abuse law. They decided to produce three questions that police could use to detect the occurrence of strangulation in a DV call.

For information they are relying on the San Diego Family Justice Center website where the word “false” never appears. The primary source of information is a set of 300 police reports judged to somehow to indicate strangulation. Those were pulled from their cache of 14,000 DV cases.

These advocates readily pull numbers and facts out of the air. One advocate said she knows that strangulation occurs in almost all DV cases. So the two percent found by FJC inconveniently conflicted with her assertion. However they expressed confidence that their three questions could push that number upward.

I thought, “What could stop them?” So I asked the Training Detective, “What happens if the questions aren’t very accurate?” But before I could get a response, the chair interrupted, “This is about producing a police training, not accuracy.” Of course it could mean that a lot more college funds would be spent on a lot more legal bills, if police arrests were based on faulty information.

Concern for accuracy is not big in the DV world. That extends to police, court, and academics. A consequence of inaccuracy is “False Positive,” which is the same concept as false allegation — innocent but stuck with consequences, except intention is not expressed, either of the accuser or the training creators. I found three false-positive percentages 9, 29 and 65. The last one appears in Jackie Campbell’s justification of her “risk assessment” test. Now that the Court is broke, you might think this would bother judges, but no. Even the smallest percent is a huge problem. The reason is simple, there are a lot more innocent people than guilty, and that percentage affects them. Would you drive to the store, if there were a nine percent chance of an accident? (on the other hand, every ten weeks — new car! In fact, lots of new cars for lots of people.)

So it was clear the advocates weren’t interested in accuracy, but what about the police? So I emailed the LAPD Training representative as below. (BTW, I made up the name). Naturally, they are “doing the best they can.” It is okay to do your best, unless you are Typhoid Mary. Mary is the gold standard for spreading disaster without intent. Malevolent actors feign her innocence. Bureaucratic bad actors have a term of art, “toss it upstairs.” The toss might have a great deal of spin from a “great politician.”

It is reasonable to think the “higher ups” will deal with it, but other DV policies went through the same chain of command, and you can clearly see the gender bias in the arrests. The current head of LAPD Training has a PhD from a theological college. Is there a prayer for that?.

Is it an acceptable practice to ignore false positives? A random telephone survey found that 10 percent of Americans have been falsely accused of DV alone, and studies on child custody cases found that half had accusations of which more than half of those accusations were without any substantiation. In Los Angeles that is at least 600,000 people and almost all of them affect one or more children. That is a lot of money that could have been spent on children, or putting our country back together..

DV is about fear. You may be afraid to ask who is paying for this, like a snowball in hell.