3 Los Angeles officers accused of false gang identifications
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three Los Angeles police officers have been charged with falsifying records reporting that people they stopped were gang members or associates, prosecutors said Friday.
The members of the Police Department’s Metropolitan Division were charged Thursday in a 59-count complaint alleging one count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice and multiple counts of filing a false police report and preparing false documentary evidence.
The officers were identified as Braxton Shaw, 37; Michael Coblentz, 42, and Nicolas Martinez, 36.
Directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, said it expects the department “to investigate this matter fully in a fair and objective manner to determine the facts, ensure that officers are accorded their due process rights and any proven mischaracterizations are corrected.”
Shaw faces the most potential liability. Accused of falsifying 43 field interview cards, he could receive up to nearly 32 years in jail if convicted.
His attorney, Gregory G. Yacoubian, wrote in an email that he was confident his client will be cleared of wrongdoing, saying he always acted at the direction of police leadership.
“Braxton has devoted his personal life and professional law enforcement career to enhancing the quality of life for everyone,” Yacoubian said.
The case involves so-called field interview cards filled out by officers, in this case by officers from Metropolitan Division, which puts crimes-suppression units on the streets.
The department revealed in January that officers had been assigned to home duty or taken off patrol after a mother complained in 2019 that her son was wrongly identified as a gang member and a police supervisor began a review of documentation.
Prosecutors in the case of the three officers alleged the cards contained false information and misidentified dozens of people as gang members.
Some of the false information was used to enter individuals into a state gang database, prosecutors said.
The defendants are accused of writing in some instances that a person admitted to being a gang member but video from body cameras showed the individuals were not asked about gang membership.
Prosecutors said in some instances individuals denied gang affiliation but the defendants wrote that they admitted being gang members.
County prosecutors have been directed to corroborate any information from field interview cards with other evidence including officers’ body cameras.
The Police Department issued a statement that did not identify the charged officers but said one was relieved of duty and police powers at the end of January and has been referred to an administrative tribunal “for the purpose of removal.”
The other two officers have been assigned to their homes and their peace officer powers have been suspended.
The department said there were 21 additional officers under investigation involving use of the field identification cards.
Ten have been assigned to their homes, eight are assigned to administrative duties, five are still on field duty, and one has retired.
In addition, all Metropolitan officers are being retrained on use of the cards and the frequency of audits of body cameras has been increased, the department said.
The department said it was no longer using the California Gang Database “for anything other than removing individuals from it.”
By JOHN ANTCZAK