The arrests of three teen members of the Los Angeles Police Department's cadet program accused of stealing three police cruisers and leading authorities on two chases has led to the suspension of cadet posts at its 77th Street and Pacific divisions.
The suspension will remain in effect pending the "findings of the ongoing investigations," the LAPD said. The LAPD also ordered commanding officers at 77th Street and Pacific divisions to providing "one-on-one counseling" to each cadet assigned there to impress upon them the seriousness of the recent cruiser thefts and the importance of the "ethical standards and integrity" needed to remain in the program.
All LAPD divisions were ordered to conduct inventories of police vehicles and equipment to ensure the prevention of unauthorized use of police equipment. Chief Charlie Beck last week ordered a thorough review of the cadet program, saying the cadets may have been impersonating police officers when they had the vehicles at their disposal.
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After the crashes involving two police cruisers Wednesday night, a third LAPD vehicle that may have been stolen by the suspects was found parked on a street, Beck said. Police spotted two of the stolen vehicles about 9:35 p.m. Wednesday in the 400 block of East 61st Street, between San Pedro Street and Avalon Boulevard, Officer Tony Im said.
The two vehicles were being driven in tandem when they were spotted by officers, prompting the chases. It wasn't immediately clear how the third suspect was involved in the incident, but Beck said the three suspects -- one female and two males -- worked together in the caper.
Investigators believe the cadets used their knowledge of the LAPD's computer inventory system to check the vehicles out under the name of a sergeant who was on vacation, Beck said. The chief said he "was not sure" how long the cars had been missing, but one of them may have been gone for two weeks. The LAPD has more than 1,800 black-and-white squad vehicles but all are not used daily. The suspects' familiarity with the computer system enabled them to conceal the thefts, Beck said.
All of the vehicles were taken from 77th Division Station in South Los Angeles, and the vehicle that was discovered parked on a street was around the corner from the station, Beck said. Beck also said the suspects were in possession of some LAPD equipment, including radios and a bullet-proof vest, although no firearms are believed to be missing. "We believe they may have been impersonating officers, and we want the public's help," Beck said last week at news conference.
The missing vehicles were discovered by a supervisor who was doing equipment inventory Wednesday, and police were able to identify a female cadet on video putting gasoline into one of them, Beck said. An officer crashed into a civilian vehicle near the intersection of Gage Avenue and Broadway during the chase, police said.
There were no reports of any serious injuries involved in that crash. Beck said the cadet program has more than 2,300 active participants. "I'm very proud of our cadet program and I don't want the actions of these three individuals to reflect negatively on the other 2,300," Beck said.