Los Angeles District 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin recently wrote an Argonaut Opinion piece entitled Reimagining Public Safety in which he presented results of data collected from a June survey of his constituents in Council District 11 (CD11). The survey attempted to crowd-source answers about who should respond to 34 hypothetical public-safety and quality-of-life scenarios, e.g., “Who should respond to reports or phone calls of vandalism or graffiti in progress?” Sadly, Bonin manipulated and deceived his constituents by skewing and misrepresenting the facts.
Here’s how Bonin’s survey worked: A series of questions about what agency one would prefer to respond to something like a domestic dispute was presented in a Google Form. Constituents were then prompted to select one — and only one — responding agency from a drop-down box in the form that included options such as LAPD Officers, Trained Volunteers, Traffic Enforcement Personnel, and Mediators, among others.
Bonin, in his manipulation of the “results”, claimed that, “while a majority of the 2,672 respondents favor an LAPD response to violent crimes and to property crimes in progress, residents overwhelmingly prefer non-LAPD responses to most other situations for which police officers are routinely called.” Sorry, Mr. Bonin, but that conclusion isn’t exactly true.
I know this because I filed for the raw data of this survey through a California Public Records Act request. Reviewing the data I found that nearly 30% of the survey respondents declared that they did not even live in CD11! Once again, Bonin appears to allow his own district’s quality of life to be impacted by what those not living in the district prefer.
Figure 1. A breakdown of where respondents stated they lived when responding to the Reimagining Public Safety survey.
Further, there were no security or audit controls in place on this survey to ensure users didn’t submit answers more than once. With additional security controls or auditing in place, Mr. Bonin could have removed duplicate submissions from bad actors attempting to skew data, data which is ostensibly being used to support legislation that advances Bonin’s personal beliefs and ultra-liberal, progressive policies – policies that Mr. Bonin’s constituents don’t prefer, according to the data.
Contrary to Bonin’s assertion, an analysis of the data actually reveals that CD11 constituents overwhelmingly preferred the LAPD respond to non-violent crimes like reports or phone calls about loud parties or excessive noise. This disputes the statement made by Mr. Bonin “it was clear that my constituents strongly favor narrowing the scope of LAPD responsibilities.” In fact, LAPD was the most preferred choice to respond to a large number of scenarios presented in the survey, including responding to and investigating reports of graffiti in progress, shoplifting, drug sales, loud parties, domestic abuse, violent crime, shutting down illegal businesses, stolen property, and identity theft, among others.
Figure 2. Aggregated, stacked percentages of preferred responders to hypothetical scenarios including responding to and investigating reports of graffiti in progress, shoplifting, drug sales, loud parties, domestic abuse, violent crime, shutting down illegal businesses, stolen property, and identity theft. Responses have been grouped by Responder (LAPD, Social Worker, etc.), and again by Neighborhood (Del Rey, Brentwood, Westchester, etc.).
For Bonin to make legislative decisions affecting the public safety of CD11 residents by looking at data from those that live outside of CD11 is a failure of his civic duty at best and negligence at worst. At the very least, he should not have resorted to data manipulation to try to convince CD11 constituents that we support his own personal narrative of what needs to be done. Bonin has allowed his personal agenda to drive his constituent representation obligations time after time. The voices of constituents are repeatedly put aside when he does not agree with them. Manipulating and bending data is just another way for Bonin to try to prove his own agenda is in line with those city residents he represents. But the data obtained and analyzed tells a different story, and it’s time that Bonin used data responsibly, valuing the input from the constituents he represents — whether he agrees with us or not — to set policy for his district and for those whom he is paid handsomely to represent.
Finally, Councilmember Mike Bonin utilized taxpayer dollars to create, gather, and manipulate the data, as well as to send out misleading communications. It is incumbent on him to correct the record, and to send out corrected communication to his constituents admitting that the data he previously presented included input from outside of his district.
Thanks only to a Freedom of Information Act, and our willingness to demand this information, are we able to discover how misleading Bonin has been. If you’re interested in the raw data to run your own analysis, it’s published here (link to raw data). You can use the Dashboard tab to slice data by Question and by Neighborhood, discover how misleading Bonin has been. One has to wonder, on how else has he been deceiving his constituents?