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LAPD seeks to fire officers suspected of disabling body cameras

Los Angeles police are seeking to fire two officers for misconduct authorities say was uncovered during an internal investigation into a San Fernando Valley gang unit whose members are accused of regularly turning off their body cameras to cover up alleged wrongdoing such as theft and tampering. reports.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore on Wednesday denied there was an underlying pattern of problematic behavior within the department, saying an extensive review he ordered “found no evidence that this guy of misconduct extends to another division of the city”.

“I know the vast majority of our officers go out every day to do great work and conduct themselves with integrity and respect for the law,” Moore said in a statement. “Mistakes discovered are dealt with with urgency and certainty, and I will never tolerate actions that undermine public confidence and tarnish the badge we all wear so proudly.”

Growing controversy involving the Mission Division Gang Enforcement Detail, whose alleged wrongdoing has sparked a separate FBI investigation, has sparked speculation that the issues being examined are more widespread than the department is letting on.

In a statement released last week, the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office said the revelations about Mission officers reflected a broader trend of LAPD officers “prematurely turning off their cameras or waiting to turn them off.” light up until they make an arrest”.

Moore said the controversy remains “the highest priority” for the department and that an internal affairs task force – made up of a lieutenant and eight investigators – is “thoroughly investigating both possible criminal offenses and administrative violations of departmental policy, as well as the full extent of the alleged concerns. The Office of Professional Standards, he said, conducted “department-wide integrity audits,” which determined that alleged misconduct “is limited to GED members in the mission area.”

The alleged misconduct came to light during an internal investigation into a traffic stop in December, when a motorist claimed police stopped him and searched his vehicle without consent or probable cause. The department’s investigation broadened as investigators began examining other checks conducted by the unit, finding numerous instances where officers had improperly turned off their body cameras or failed to document the encounter, in violation of department policy.

Moore said last week that some gang officers allegedly took items from people during traffic stops, prompting Internal Affairs investigators to search their lockers at the Mission station.

The unit has effectively been disbanded and at least some of its officers have been assigned to home, the department said.

On Wednesday, the department confirmed that two of the unit’s officers were directed on August 31 to a disciplinary hearing, known as a rights board, on pain of dismissal.

Moore does not have the authority to fire an officer for misconduct under the LAPD’s disciplinary system. Instead, when the chief feels the dismissal is necessary, the officer is entitled to a hearing before a three-person rights committee. An officer may also request a hearing before the council to challenge a suspension or demotion ordered by the chief.

Secret hearings work a bit like mini-trials. After hearing evidence and testimony from both sides, a panel — consisting of two LAPD officers with the rank of captain or higher and one civilian or, increasingly, all civilians — makes a decision on the guilt or innocence of an officer. If it finds an officer guilty, the committee can suggest disciplinary measures, but the final word on sanctions rests with the chief.

As officers increasingly choose to have their cases heard by all-civilian commissions, which tend to be more lenient, Moore, Mayor Karen Bass and other top city officials have called for an overhaul. of the current system. The police union has long argued that former chiefs had too much power to discipline officers, which opened the door to abuse.

The department would not name the officers facing firing or provide any other biographical information, citing state privacy laws.

Times editor Richard Winton contributed to this report.