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Last week's report by the Police Commission's inspector general found that "at least five" LAPD patrol divisions have been flubbing their numbers to make it look as if more officers were out on patrol; officers who were working on other tasks that kept them out of a squad car were logged as being out in the field.

The phenomenon, according to the report, is referred to as "ghost car" deployment.

Police unions have been blasting the LAPD, saying the department has been fudging reports to make it look like they had enough patrols on the street.  In reality, the numbers are well below standards set by the brass.

Some have alleged that the use of ghost cars has been going on for years. Although some divisions are more guilty than others, it's said to be happening all over LA.  The inspector general says it's happening at all times of the day and involves officers of many different ranks.

Department officials have declined to comment until they can review the report.

How investigators say it happened

The LAPD uses a sophisticated computer program that calculates a number of different factors.  From there it determines how many officers need to be on patrol in order for the department to maintain a 7-minute response time for emergency calls.

Each day supervisors are suppose to log the daily assignments every officer has been given; the program also sends snapshot data, twice a day, to higher ups so they can evaluate whether enough patrol cars are on the street.

If the levels fall short, police captains at each division are held accountable.

The inspector general had been hearing reports that the LAPD had been using ghost cars to make it appear that patrol numbers were being met.  His investigation mostly centered on two specific divisions, but the report does not indicate which ones were being looked into.

In one incident, an officer who spent his entire shift working at the station was logged into the computer as being "out on patrol".  The "ghost car" officer would then contact dispatch to let them know he was busy so they wouldn't send him out on a call.

Officers say there is a lot of pressure to make sure patrol deployment levels are being met, and the pressure trickles down from the top all the way to the bottom.  At the same time, just because officers feel pressured to make staffing level requirements that's no excuse for falsifying the numbers.