The elite Metro Division of the Los Angeles Police Department is under investigation for falsifying documents that identify people as gang members, newspaper stories report.
The probe was prompted by a mother who said police improperly identified her son as a gang member. The resulting preliminary investigation uncovered discrepancies between video recording of police stops and written reports.
“An officer’s integrity must be absolute,” Police Chief Michael Moore explained to civic leaders from South Los Angeles who demanded changes. “There is no place in the department for any individual who would purposely falsify information on a department report.”
Metro officers assigned to patrol South Los Angeles are suspected of falsifying data, after interviews with people stopped in the field, and inputting incorrect information about those questioned to bolster statistics, a Jan. 6 Los Angeles Times article reported.
The investigation began after a San Fernando Valley mother received a written notice in 2019 that her son had been identified as a gang member and added to the CalGang criminal intelligence system, the LASentinel.net reported Jan. 23.
Believing her son misidentified she reported the mistake to someone in a supervisory capacity at the Van Nuys Police station.
According to the LAPD, that supervisor reviewed the circumstances, including the footage from the body camera along with other information, and found that the officer’s report did not match up with the facts, the story said.
The mother who first brought this to the attention of the department was notified that her son was misidentified as a gang member and any documentation to that effect would be deleted.
These events led to an internal investigation focused on three officers, but has since grown in the coming months to include as many as 20, LASentinel.net reported.
The office of the LAPD Inspector General uncovered additional false documentation by the same officers, as well as others, the story said.
All the officers involved were assigned to the Metropolitan Division, “Given the serious nature of the alleged misconduct, all involved officers have been assigned to inactive duty or removed from the field,” the story reported.
An investigation by the Los Angeles Times published last year revealed Metro officers stopped African American drivers at a rate five time their share of the city’s population.
LAPD has historically targeted and criminalized men of color; this has to stop, a group of community leaders said during a meeting with Chief Moore, the LASentinel noted.
Those assembled did not mince words when they outlined their concerns, blaming the LAPD and racist cops as the problem, asking that all the officers involved be fired and that the gang data base CalGang be eradicated.
Moore said he was not in agreement with eliminating the gang data base, which was created and is maintained by the States Attorney General’s Office.
He does however want changes to the CalGang protocols, such as changing the way officers document individuals as gang associates and eliminating officers and informants as reliable sources, the LASentinel article reported.
In 2015 the size of the Metro unit was doubled to about 200 officers, to combat a surge in violent crime throughout the city.
Moore said Metro’s vehicle stops had not proved effective, netting about one arrest for every 100 cars stopped, with innocent drivers complaining they were being racially profiled, the Times reported.
The union which represents officers released a statement saying that it was “aware of reports of discrepancies contained on a limited number of field interview cards that the department is looking into.” The statement also said that the union expects 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 Times article reported.
As a result of the statistics, LAPD announced last fall that it will reduce the number of random vehicle stops, Metro officers will instead track down suspects wanted in violent offenses and use strategies other than vehicle stops to address flareups in crimes such as burglaries and shootings, the story notes.
Attending the meeting were Michael Lawson, president of L.A. Urban League Yvonne Wheeler, labor leader; Khalid Shah, executive director of Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace; Horace E. Frank, assistant police chief, director LAPD Special Operations; Charisse Bremond-Weaver, Brotherhood Crusade president; Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, representative for the Nation of Islam Western Region; Danny Bakewell, publisher of the L.A. Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times.