Prosecutors allege members of the department's Metro Division wrongly portrayed people as gang members or associates
LOS ANGELES — The investigation into allegations that members of the elite Los Angeles Police Department Metro Division falsified information they gathered during stops and wrongly portrayed people as gang members or associates has expanded to include 20 officers, with prosecutors already reviewing one case.
The widening probe is becoming a major scandal at the LAPD, raising questions about the criminal cases brought by the officers now under scrutiny. The officers, assigned to special patrols in South Los Angeles, are suspected of falsifying field interview cards during stops and entering incorrect information about those questioned in an effort to boost stop statistics.
"This definitely has a criminal aspect. Falsifying information on a department report is a crime," Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday. "I must look straight at these allegations. It does give me concern."
Los Angeles Police Commission members expressed alarm.
"These allegations are extremely troubling," said commission President Eileen Decker.
Decker asked LAPD Inspector General Mark Smith to monitor the department's investigation and to conduct a separate inquiry.
Moore said the investigation initially focused on three officers and moved to others who worked with them. It then expanded to more who worked with the second group, the police chief said.
Moore said 10 officers had been assigned to home and had their police powers suspended. "I believe there is sufficient cause to assign them to home," he said.
Another 10 have been removed from the street because investigators have reviewed some of their work and "don't know if it's inaccuracies or falsehoods," Moore said.
"We have found inconsistencies that are in direct contrast with the physical evidence," he said.
To add a protective measure, the department now requires a gang lieutenant to review body-worn video to make sure it matches the field interview cards when adding someone to the database, Moore added.
In at least one case, body camera and car recordings did not match the accounts in the field interview cards, law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times last week.
A Times investigation published last January showed that Metro officers stopped African American drivers at a rate more than five times their share of the city's population. To combat a surge in violent crime, the LAPD doubled the size of its Metropolitan Division in 2015, creating special units to swarm crime hot spots.
In response, the LAPD announced last fall it would drastically cut back on pulling over random vehicles. At the time, Moore said Metro's vehicle stops had not proved effective, netting about one arrest for every 100 cars stopped, while coming at a tremendous cost to innocent drivers who felt they were being racially profiled. Officials said Metro crime suppression officers, who number about 200, would instead track down suspects wanted in violent offenses and use strategies other than vehicle stops to address flare-ups in crimes such as burglaries and shootings.