LOS ANGELES (AP) - Members of an elite police crime suppression team are under investigation over allegations that they falsified records and listed some innocent people as gang members, the Los Angeles police said Monday.
Ten officers have been assigned to home while others were taken off patrol, Police Chief Michel Moore told KNX-AM news radio.
“What would motivate them?” Moore said. “That is something that we’re looking at very intensely.”
The months-long investigation began in early 2019 when a mother in the San Fernando Valley was notified that her son had been identified as a gang member, according to a Police Department statement.
“She believed her son was misidentified and reported the mistake to a supervisor at a nearby police station. The supervisor immediately reviewed the circumstances, including body-worn video and other information, finding inaccuracies in the documentation completed by an officer,” the LAPD statement said.
References to her son as a gang member were removed from the documents and three officers fell under investigation. The department said Internal Affairs investigators found more inaccuracies on field interview cards that police fill out after stopping and questioning people.
That has resulted in officers being removed from the field or assigned to inactive duty because of “the serious nature of the alleged misconduct,” according to the LAPD.
The probe continues and Moore has ordered an inspection of the “work product” of all Metropolitan Division activities, the LAPD said.
“Public trust is the foundation of community policing and the LAPD has zero tolerance for any employee that would violate that trust,” Moore said in the statement. “An officer’s integrity must be absolute. There is no place in the department for any individual who would purposely falsify information on a department report.”
The LAPD said it is working with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in case the investigation may lead to criminal charges.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union for police officers, said it has confidence that Moore “”will oversee a thorough and fair process to determine the facts, and to also ensure that any impacted officer is accorded his or her due process rights.”
The Metropolitan Division fields special suppression units in high-crime areas. Among other things, officers stop some drivers to search for guns and drugs. A Los Angeles Times analysis published last January concluded that from 2015 to 2018, 65% of drivers stopped by Metropolitan Division officers were African American. The Times said African American drivers were stopped at a rate more than five times their share of the city’s population.
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