A scandal rocking the Los Angeles Police Department over allegations that members of the LAPD’s elite Metro Division falsely portrayed people as gang members is also prompting questions about whether the claims will affect ongoing criminal cases involving the accused officers.
The scope of the allegations are still unclear, but LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the internal investigation now includes 20 officers. Officers assigned 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.
So far, the Los Angeles County district attorney is looking at potential criminal charges against one officer.
Law enforcement sources told The Times that the LAPD is working with prosecutors to determine whether any criminal cases are tied to the alleged falsified records and whether the investigation casts doubt on any testimony from the accused officers. That process, the sources said, is ongoing.
Moore said the investigation initially focused on three officers and expanded to others who worked with the original three and then to others who worked with a second group, the chief said.
Moore said 10 officers have been assigned to home and have had their police powers suspended. Another 10 have been removed from the street because investigators have found discrepancies in their work and “don’t know if it’s inaccuracies or falsehoods,” Moore said.
George Gascon, a former LAPD assistant chief who is seeking to unseat Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, called on her to pause the prosecutions of any cases involving the officers under investigation.
“Police are the guardians of our community,” Gascon said. “When our guardians betray the public’s trust, it is incumbent upon the district attorney to safeguard the integrity of the system by ensuring that betrayal does not undermine the fair administration of justice.”
It’s unclear how many cases could be called into question.
Lacey’s office said it was investigating the matter but did not address detailed questions from The Times.
“Our office is following an established process to ensure we fulfill our constitutional and statutory discovery obligations and updating our Discovery Compliance System as appropriate,” the statement said. “The underlying matter is still under review and therefore we cannot comment further.”
The LAPD said it launched the investigation last year after a Van Nuys mother received a letter in early 2019 informing her that her son had been identified as a gang member. She believed her son was misidentified and reported it to a supervisor at a nearby police station. The supervisor immediately reviewed body camera footage and other information and found inaccuracies in the officer‘s statements. The department removed the woman’s son from the gang database.
While Moore said the internal investigation had found multiple cases in which body-cam videos did match what officers had documented in their paperwork, he pledged that the department was working to understand the “depth and breadth” of the scandal.