LAPD

More LAPD Officers Face Potential Criminal Charges in False Gang Data Investigation

Prosecutors have already accused 3 officers from the Department's Metropolitan Division of conspiring to fabricate reports on people they questioned.

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Sixteen additional LAPD officers may face criminal charges in the investigation into falsified interview reports, in which some innocent motorists and pedestrians questioned by police were labeled as gang members in a database, according to an LAPD memo.

The memo confirms the total number of officers under investigation in the case is now 24, including 3 charged last week, 16 more who may face future criminal charges, and 5 others suspected of violating department policies but not of breaking the law. 

NBC4's I-Team first reported in January that numerous officers from the LAPD's Metropolitan Division were suspected of fabricating information about people they stopped during crime suppression patrols, possibly to falsely boost the officers' daily productivity statistics, according to multiple law enforcement sources.

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Last Thursday the L.A. County District Attorney's Office filed a 59-count criminal complaint against 3 of the officers -- Braxton Shaw, Michael Coblentz, and Nicolas Martinez. The case accuses them of conspiring to file false police reports and fabricate documents for court. 

The DA’s Office said Monday it was still in the process of evaluating the evidence against the other 16 officers but no decisions had been made on whether or not to file charges.

Officers Shaw, Coblentz, and Martinez were booked into jail Friday and released without bond. They were ordered to make an initial appearance in court in October.

The criminal complaint also accuses Shaw of filing gang data on fictitious individuals. The information was submitted by the officers on 'field interrogation' or 'FI' cards turned in at the end of a shift. Entries on the cards were later added to the statewide law enforcement gang intelligence database, called "Cal-Gangs."

“Public trust is the bedrock of community policing and these allegations shake that foundation,” Chief Michel Moore said in a statement after the charges were made public. Last month Moore ordered officers to stop adding names or information to the system. 

“Based on recent audits and ongoing complaint investigations, the accuracy of the database has been called into question,” Moore wrote in another internal memo.

“To strengthen community trust and avoid any adverse impact on individuals, particularly in communities of color, the Department has enacted a complete moratorium on the use of the CalGang System," Moore wrote.

CalGangs is managed by the California Department of Justice and the office of the California Attorney General.  Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced in February his office would begin to "independently review" LAPD submissions to the database, and said LAPD could potentially lose its access to the system if widespread problems were detected.

"As we learn more, we may need to do more," Becerra said in February. "We can, and will, take further steps as authorized under AB-90, including suspending or revoking LAPD's access to the Cal-Gangs database."

AB-90 was the bill that gave Becerra’s office oversight of the system. The state is also in the process of revising and limiting the criteria for when a person’s profile can be added to the database.

"This kind of behavior is reprehensible, and it undermines the courageous work that our officers do to keep Angelenos safe every day," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement Friday.

The LAPD was also expected to make organizational changes to Metropolitan Division as part of a larger department restructuring, that might include the reassignment of dozens of officers from Metro to patrol duty at neighborhood police stations.

An internal memo sent to Metro Division officers that was obtained by NBC4’s I-Team said as of Thursday, July 09, “at this point, it’s simply speculation on the part of everyone.”

Captain LeLand Sands told officers in the memo, “I want you to know that no decisions have been made for the future of Metro.”

Other records obtained by the I-Team show Shaw was investigated by LAPD internal affairs in 2016 after his testimony in court appeared to conflict with a video recording from a camera mounted in a patrol car. The L.A. County District Attorney's Office decided not to file a criminal charge.

Metro Division was rapidly expanded in 2015 in response to a violent crime increase. Its officers were often sent to areas that experienced crime spikes in order to conduct crime suppression patrols. Metro officers do not respond to routine radio calls and can instead focus their time on making observational stops and arrests.

Multiple law enforcement sources told NBCLA’s I-Team that 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."

Chief Moore and other LAPD officials have denied there was pressure to produce any particular type of statistics, and Moore has said the motive behind submitting the alleged false reports wasn’t clear.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to add a response from the District Attorney's office.

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