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LAPD could take action against officers in gang-framing case within days, chief says

LAPD
Several LAPD officers across the city are suspected of falsifying field interview cards from traffic stops and entering incorrect information about those questioned in an effort to boost stop statistics.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The first round of the LAPD’s investigation into allegations that members of its elite Metro Division falsely portrayed people as gang members or associates could be completed within days.

“I don’t mean this to go on for months or years,” Chief Michel Moore said. “I will make a finding on the basis of the completed investigation as to appropriate disposition — whether that be sustained acts of misconduct, including the potential criminality of that.... If I were to recommend, for instance, termination, that would be a direction or board rights, a tribunal through our discipline system.”

Several officers across the city are suspected of falsifying field interview cards from traffic stops and entering incorrect information about those questioned in an effort to boost stop statistics. Moore said the investigation initially focused on three officers and expanded to others who worked with the original three and then on to others who worked with a second group. Now, at least 20 officers are under investigation.

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Moore said that the department investigates if it learns that an officer has acted with racial or gender bias. However, “if it was not identified, the action of completing an FI [field interview card] in it of itself doesn’t constitute a bias or absence of bias,” Moore said.

To combat a surge in violent crime, the Los Angeles Police Department doubled the size of its elite Metropolitan Division in 2015, creating special units to swarm crime hot spots.

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The department has begun conducting more spot checks of body-worn cameras, examining police behavior even when an incident hasn’t been identified, Inspector General Mark Smith said.

An L.A. Times analysis found a black person was more than four times as likely to be searched by police as a white person, and a Latino was three times as likely.

This week, Eileen Decker, the president of the Board of Police Commissioners, asked Smith to monitor the LAPD investigation into the falsified field interview cards and to conduct a separate inquiry. Smith also was asked to provide analysis of a report published by the California Department of Justice this month that scrutinized racial bias in police stops by law enforcement agencies across the country, including the LAPD.

The report shows that of the nearly 337,000 stops reported by the Los Angeles Police Department, about 28% involved black motorists, though blacks account for 9% of the city’s population, according to U.S. Census data.

Decker said that while the inspector general’s two investigations are separate, they will both help inform what steps the department should take to confront racial bias.

“What are we seeing in the data, the data we can collect, and is there a correlation?” she said. “We have to see where the investigation leads us. This has to be very fact-based.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is satisfied with how the LAPD is handling the scandal.

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“We have a department that didn’t shove that under the rug, a department that took action immediately. I think the chief took the right action,” he said.


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