Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday the internal investigation into allegations that more than a dozen officers were suspected of submitting false gang data on innocent drivers and pedestrians was far from over, and he had not yet passed judgment on the officers' conduct.
"I believe the vast majority of the men and women of Metropolitan Division ... are professionals of the highest standard and moral character," Moore told members of the Los Angeles Police Commission. "However, I must look straight ahead at these allegations and judge them with a clear eye."
NBC4's I-Team reported last week that the officers were suspected of filing field interview cards that described citizens as gang members, when, in fact, they were not. Those cards led to those individuals being added to law enforcement databases as identified gang members.
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Moore said in addition to the 10 officers who were stripped of police powers and assigned to their homes another 10 officers had been removed from field duty as internal affairs investigators compared entries on those officers' interview cards and reports with body worn video recordings.
"Countless times," Moore said those video recordings had shown officers filed accurate information, "but we have also found inaccuracies," that the chief said were in conflict with the physical evidence, and other instances were the records and the video were still unclear.
He said the investigation could result in criminal charges as well as disciplinary penalties, such as suspensions or terminations.
"This instance definitely has a criminal aspect as to falsifying information on a department report - is a crime," Moore said.
LA County prosecutors are already considering criminal charges against one of the officers, Braxton B. Shaw, who's been on administrative leave since the sources said a review of his body-worn-video recordings last year showed events allegedly inconsistent with his written reports. In 2016 prosecutors decided not to charge Shaw with perjury in an unrelated case, when LAPD Internal Affairs reported Shaw's courtroom testimony conflicted with a recording from his patrol car's dashboard camera, according to a memo from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
The DA's Office said Tuesday the case against Shaw remained under review.
Shaw could not be reached for comment. The union that represents him and the other officers, the LA Police Protective League, said last week in a statement from its Board of Directors:
"We are aware of reports of discrepancies contained on a limited number of field interview cards that the department is looking into and we have confidence that Chief 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 League said.
Moore told the Commissioners that as an interim measure another layer of supervisors in the department are reviewing body worn video anytime an officer submits an interview card that says a person admitted to being a gang member.
Shaw and some of the other officers under scrutiny are assigned to the Metropolitan Division, which was rapidly expanded in 2015 and dispatched to South LA to help address rising violent crime rates with aggressive street patrols. Shaw was amongst the cadre of officers swept into Metro during the summer of 2015, the sources said.
The street patrols became the subject of complaints in early 2019 from the ACLU and 11 other community groups, after the LA Times reported that data collected in the LAPD's 77th and Southeast Divisions showed African American drivers were stopped, "at a rate more than five times their share of the population," by Metro Division officers. The Times noted the data alone was not proof of racial profiling.
The law enforcement sources said prior to the media attention on the traffic stop statistics Metro Division officers had been pressured by their commanders to show that their patrols were productive.
Officers assembled daily statistics about the number of people they stopped and questioned, the number of contacts with gang members, the number of arrests, and other metrics. Each day's statistics was captured for analysis by LAPD executives, and the sources said officers were told, the more gang contacts the better.
The actions and statements of two LAPD supervisors were said to be under scrutiny, but it was not clear they were part of the group under investigation by Internal Affairs.
In the instances now under review it appeared officers were filing field interview cards for these contacts with falsified information that labeled some drivers, passengers, and pedestrians as gang members, when, in fact, they were not, the sources said. The entries on the cards were later added to an LA County and a statewide database of gang members, "Cal-Gangs," potentially leading to future legal problems for those individuals.