A judge in downtown LA Tuesday dismissed criminal charges against three of the LAPD officers accused of falsely labeling some innocent people they stopped as gang members in a statewide law enforcement database.
LA Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor found there wasn’t probable cause to proceed with criminal cases against LAPD Metropolitan Division officers Rene Braga, Raul Uribe, and Julio Garcia, who were charged in October, 2020 with falsifying official documents. Braga had also been charged with one count of filing a false police report.
Braga, Uribe, and Garcia were allegedly caught falsifying field interview cards that recorded the personal information of individuals they questioned, causing the names of some to be added into the “Cal-Gangs” database used by police statewide.
“Our office is reviewing the decision and weighing our options,” said Alex Bastian, Special Advisor to DA George Gascon.
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“The department accepts the court decision regarding the criminal case and it will continue with its ongoing administrative investigation,” the LAPD said in a statement.
“Additionally, the department will ensure additional training to prevent the potential for any future occurrences.”
NBC4’s I-Team first reported in January, 2020 that more than a dozen officers were being investigated for alleged false gang reports. A lawsuit filed by one officer alleged LAPD commanders had pushed Metro Division to conduct as many stops of gang members as possible, potentially creating an incentive for some to submit falsified data. The LAPD has denied the accusation.
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As a result of the discovery of the falsified interview records the California Department of Justice cut-off LAPD access to the gang database, and later removed some of the Department’s entries in the system.
The DA’s office confirmed in the fall of 2020 that it had begun to dismiss some criminal cases that dated back to 2016 as a result of the false data, in which some of the accused officers were the sole witnesses to the alleged crimes.
“These exonerated officers should be returned to active duty as quickly as possible,” said the Board of Directors of the LA Police Protective League, the union that represents most officers.”
“We won’t hold our breath waiting for those that cast aspersions about these officers to apologize for getting it wrong,” the League directors said in an emailed statement.
The first three LAPD officers charged in the case are still awaiting trial on more comprehensive allegations of making similar false reports. They have pleaded not guilty and are due in court for a pretrial hearing next month.