Sometimes the Simple Lies are the Best


There are all sorts of clever ways to game the system so that it looks like you’re doing better than you really are. The LA Fire Department, however, decided not to bother with anything fancy:

Federal guidelines call for first responders to arrive on scene in under five minutes 90% of the time. But a former department statistician counted all responses within six minutes, officials explained, which improved the record. Retired Captain Billy Wells, who crunched the data with a hand calculator, said he followed the department’s long tradition of using a six-minute response standard.

Wells’ successor, Capt. Mark Woolf, said he reluctantly continued using the flawed formula for a time because he didn’t want to be blamed for a sudden drop in department performance. “I didn’t want to touch that [extra] minute because I knew the data would take a dump,” he said.

Apparently the department fessed up after a mayoral candidate complained that response times had dropped due to budget cutbacks. But it turns out that response times had actually dropped mostly because the LAFD finally stopped lying about them. When and why did they stop lying? Sadly, the article doesn’t explain. Perhaps we’ll find out tomorrow.

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