Three Los Angeles police officers are facing charges of falsifying records and obstruction of justice over allegations that they wrongly identified people as gang members, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office announced on Friday.
In a 59-count complaint, LAPD officers Braxton Shaw, Michael Coblentz and Nicolas Martinez are alleged to have wrongly marked dozens of people as having gang affiliation on field interview cards used by officers on duty.
Citing body camera video, prosecutors say the officers identified people as gang members even when the officers failed to ask the question or the person outright denied it.
Shaw is accused of filing 43 field interview cards with false information. Coblentz is accused of falsifying seven and Martinez is accused of falsifying two.
The officers, who were assigned to the Metro Division at the time, are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and multiple counts of filing a false police report and preparing false documentary evidence.
According to prosecutors,if convicted, Shaw could face up to 31 years and eight months in county jail, Coblentz, more than seven years, and Martinez, just over four years.
The charges stemmed from a LAPD misconduct investigation, the department said. The Los Angeles Times reports the department launched the investigation last year after a Van Nuys resident was informed her son was in a gang. Body camera footage and other evidence found inaccuracies by the officer involved, according to the paper.
In addition to Shaw, Coblentz and Martinez, 21 officers are under scrutiny with most either currently assigned to home or administrative duties.The LAPD said that two of the charged officers are assigned home and another has been relieved from duty and faces possible removal. The department did not specify which of the three officers face removal.
In a statement, Police Chief Michel Moore said the department was committed to continuing its investigation.
"Public trust is the bedrock of community policing and these allegations shake that foundation. The actions of these few tarnish the badge we all wear," Moore said.
The Times notes Metro is an elite division in the LAPD which has repeatedly come under scrutiny for its tactics.The paper reports that its analysis found the division stopped Black drivers at a rate five times their share of the city's population.