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LAPD Scandal Over Falsely Adding Residents to Gang Database

The investigation into allegations that members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Metro Division falsely portrayed people as gang members or associates has expanded into a criminal probe and forced LAPD leaders to inform community members about the scandal.

Officers assigned across the city are suspected of falsifying field interview cards during stops and entering incorrect information about those questioned in an effort to boost stop statistics.

To prevent possible abuses, the department now requires a gang lieutenant to review body-worn camera video to make sure it matches the field interview cards when adding a person to the database, Chief Michel Moore said.

Commissioner Shane Murphy Goldsmith said the falsified information has the “impact of criminalizing people who have done nothing wrong,” especially African Americans and Latinos.

An LAPD source not authorized to discuss the investigation said Metro officers feel pressure to produce statistics in a results-driven department. The problems stem from a Metro expansion in 2015 to target guns and gangs, the source said.

“So if you have no arrest, no gun or gang member identified at the end of the day, it was a wasted day,” the source said.

Moore said 10 officers have been assigned to home and had their police powers suspended. 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.

Moore repeatedly told commissioners that the internal investigation had found multiple cases where video from body-worn cameras matched what officers documented in paperwork.

A policing expert with the ACLU of Southern California said the number of officers accused raises questions about the validity of gang databases and whether their alleged behavior reflects a culture among Metro officers to boost statistics.

“The fact so many officers were involved strongly indicates to me this isn’t simply a few officers acting on their own, but it is part of a culture to do this among those the department believes are the best of the best,” Attorney Peter Bibring said.

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. In response, the LAPD announced last fall it would drastically cut back on stops of drivers encountered randomly. 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.

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