3 LAPD Officers Charged With Falsifying Field Interview Cards To Wrongfully Identify People As Gang Members
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Three LAPD officers have been charged in connection with falsifying records after people were found to be added wrongfully to a state gang database.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey says Braxton Shaw, 37; Michael Coblentz, 42; and Nicolas Martinez, 26, have been charged in a 59-count complaint for falsifying records that claimed people they had stopped were gang members or associates.
All three officers were assigned to LAPD's Metro Division. They were put on leave in January, and the LAPD says one of the officers has been relieved from duty, and the other two have been relieved of police powers. The LAPD has since placed a moratorium on using the CalGang system.
The false records in question were field interview cards used by officers to conduct interviews while they are on duty. Prosecutors say the cards contained false information and misidentified dozens of people as gang members, some of which was entered into a state gang database. In some instances, the officers allegedly wrote on the card that a person admitted to being a gang member, but body-worn camera video showed that the officers never asked about gang membership. Other times, the officers allegedly wrote that a person admitted to being a gang member, even though the person denied being in a gang.
In a statement, the LAPD says the charges filed Friday are not the end of their investigation -- 21 more officers are still being investigated, with 10 assigned to home and eight assigned to administrative duties. Five remain in the field, and one has retired since the investigation began, according to the LAPD. All Metropolitan personnel have been retrained on the proper completion of FI cards, and the department has increased the frequency of random audits of body-worn cameras.
"Public trust is the bedrock of community policing and these allegations shake that foundation," LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in the statement. "The actions of these few tarnish the badge we all wear."
Shaw is accused of falsifying 43 field interviews alone. Coblentz allegedly falsified seven field interview cards, while Martinez is accused of falsifying two cards.
If convicted as charged, Shaw faces up to 31 years and eight months in county jail. Coblentz faces up to seven years and eight months in jail, and Martinez could be sentenced to up to four years and four months in jail.
Lacey says as a result of the ongoing investigation, she has directed her prosecutors to corroborate any information from field interview cards with other available evidence, including body-worn camera video, to ensure the accuracy of the information.
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