LAPD

Criminal Cases Dropped in Connection With Alleged LAPD False Gang Reports

Prosecutors say officers' credibility in doubt in more than a dozen cases; hundreds more under review.

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The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office confirmed this week that it had begun to drop or would ask to dismiss more than a dozen criminal cases connected with a group of LAPD officers now suspected of filing falsified reports. 

The cases date back to 2016 and were prosecutions that relied heavily on the accounts of officers Braxton Shaw and Michael Coblentz, two of three officers charged in a 59-count felony complaint that accused them of conspiring to file false information.

A third officer, Nicolas Martinez, was also charged with Shaw and Coblentz. All three were expected to make an initial appearance in court in October. 

"The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has identified cases in which Officers Shaw and Coblentz, who were partners at the time, were the sole percipient witnesses," the DA's Office said in a statement this week.

"Our office is reviewing hundreds of cases – both pending and closed -- to determine whether issues involving the officers' credibility undermines our faith that the totality of the evidence would lead a jury to find the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes as charged," the statement said.

Shaw, Coblentz, and Martinez were the first officers to face criminal charges in a year-long investigation into falsified field interview cards and other police documents that allegedly labeled dozens of innocent drivers and pedestrians as gang members, when, in fact, they were not. 

The DA's Office says it is still considering filing criminal charges against an additional 16 LAPD officers who were also investigated as part of the falsified report case. All of the officers were assigned to the Department's Metropolitan Division. 

Shaw was previously investigated in 2016 after his testimony in court appeared to conflict with a video recording from a camera mounted in a patrol car. No charges were filed in that case.

Shaw and the other officers under investigation were assigned to the "C-Platoon" of the Metro Division. The unit was rapidly expanded in 2015 and often dispatched to conduct street patrols in areas that had experienced spikes in crime.

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.

Last month a Metro officer named Samantha Fiedler sued the LAPD claiming she was effectively demoted and removed from Metro as a result of the investigation. Fiedler’s lawsuit also alleged that Metro supervisors were constantly pushing officers to report more contacts with gang members, around the same time the suspect officers allegedly filed the false interview reports. 

"It was all about their numbers of arrests and FI cards. Minimums had to be met,” Fiedler said in the complaint. 

"At Metro, if an officer went more than a day or two without producing a gang or gun arrest, Command Staff would make it clear that 'production' needed to increase. 'Production' was,  is, and always has been, LAPD Speak for more numbers on your Recap, which means more arrests and FI Cards," according to her lawsuit.

The LAPD declined to address the allegations in Fiedler's suit.

"Due to the pending litigation we are unable to comment at this time," said LAPD Capt. Stacy Spell.

In July the California Department of Justice revoked access to the LAPD's entries in the state's Cal-Gangs database of gang information, following an audit that found inaccuracies in the LAPD's entries in the system.

The California Department of Justice said LAPD entries made up approximately 25% of the 78,000 current profiles in the Cal-Gangs system.

"CalGang is only as good as the data that is put into it," Attorney General Becerra said in a prepared statement. "If a quarter of the program's data is suspect, then the utility of the entire system rightly comes under the microscope."

The LAPD's audit of a sample of its officers' entries found problems with the data. A public report said while most of the reviewed entries were accurate, a small percentage appeared to have been fabricated, and other entries made assertions about individuals questioned that could not be verified with body worn video recordings or other evidence.

The LAPD's audit said some officers never submitted gang membership information about individuals they questioned who admitted on-camera to being gang members, and other times individuals denied they were gang members but were reported by officers to have admitted membership.

"The capriciousness leading to someone not documented as a gang member, even when they admitted to being an active gang member to the officer at the time of the encounter, combined with others being documented as a self-admitted gang member when they deny gang membership or were not asked about gang membership invalidates the Database," the LAPD auditors wrote.

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