The LAPD is in the midst of another scandal. Earlier this month, the department issued a statement saying that officers citywide falsely portrayed people as gang members. They’re accused of filling out field interview cards, which are used to document contact that doesn’t end in an arrest or a citation, with bogus information during traffic stops to boost statistics.
The scheme was uncovered when a mother from the San Fernando Valley got a letter informing her that her son had been identified as a gang member. She spoke to a supervisor at a nearby police station, who found that the officer’s own body camera contradicted the account.
As a result of an ongoing internal investigation, 10 officers have been assigned to home and had their police powers suspended. Another 10 have been removed from the streets as investigators review their work.
Civil rights attorney and author Connie Rice says that the department’s handling of the case shows that they’ve come a long way, even though there are still problems.
“Thirty years ago, that mother's letter would have been put in the trash. Then they would have gone after the kid and harassed him to punish her for complaining. And then they would have gone after the kid's friends. And then they would have gotten ‘Atta boys’ and ‘Congratulations’,” she says. “Today, there's a hardcore investigation. The chief has actually taken them out of operation until we know what's going on. That's a very clear message.”
The scandal could have a ripple effect on criminal cases, and prosecutors are working to determine if the investigation will impact any ongoing cases.
“If the level of deception has risen to fraud and the actual lie is intentional, those officers are no longer credible to be in court. And I think the DAs [district attorneys] have got to look at any cases that they've testified in,” Rice says.
Rice says that she is pleased with the agency’s swift action and has faith in the investigation, but not everyone may see it that way: “Thirty years ago, they'd have been promoted. I call that progress. The community sees it as continued evidence of the corruption of American policing. Both are right.”