Officers Misidentifying People as Gang Members

photo of LAPD emblem
Los Angeles Police Department

More than 12 Officers Suspected of Falsifying Records

It all started when the mother of a minor received a letter stating her child had been listed as a gang member. When the mother went to the Los Angeles Police Department to let them know of the error it kicked off an investigation. As part of the investigation, the body cam video was reviewed. Investigators discovered that what was on the video did not match up with what the officer had written. The investigation continued to expand, eventually catching more than 12 officers that are suspected of misidentifying individuals as gang members.

Gang Membership is Often a Judgment Call

I don’t know about California but in Texas, gang information is confidential. I don’t know if we have any requirements to notify an individual that they have been listed as a gang member, the way California does. Like The New York Times article says, most gang members don’t identify themselves as such. Officers there, and here, question the individual and make a judgment call. But that decision can be affected by all kinds of things including bigotry and even a bad mood. It only adds to the problem when the person being questioned is being a jerk.

Power to Hurt

Officers know that listing someone as a gang member will cause additional problems down the line for that person. They will be watched closer. When an officer comes into contact with them he will be notified by their Dispatch that the person is a gang member which will immediately escalate the danger level the officer feels he is under. We all know what can happen then. There will be a greater tendency to assume the individuals are guilty of crimes. And they will probably get tougher sentences. Mistakes can be made but sometimes it’s not a mistake. Sometimes it’s intentional to get back at someone who was being a jerk.

Falsification of Records

The LAPD officers were in, what has been referred to as, the elite metro division. That would give the impression that they were trained on what to look for when deciding if someone was a gang member. Not only have they stepped outside of their training but what they wrote to justify labeling individuals as gang members, didn’t match up with what was viewed on the videos. Falsification of records is a firing offense but if they have arbitrators that function the same way as the ones for SAPD, one wonders if anyone will be held accountable.

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