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Teen LAPD Cadets Suspected Of Stealing, Crashing Cruisers And Posing As Officers

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As we'd reported on Thursday, two stolen LAPD cruisers crashed separately during a pursuit with officers on Wednesday night. A third cruiser, driven by a pursuing officer, also crashed. Three suspects were taken into custody.

The incident left a number of questions for officers, the most prominent of which being: how did those cruisers get stolen in the first place? On Thursday afternoon, the LAPD released more information that shed light on the situation. Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a press conference that three teen police cadets—ages 15, 16, and 17—are now in custody on suspicion of stealing those cruisers and theft of other property. It's also believed that they may have impersonated LAPD officers.

The LAPD told LAist on Thursday that the vehicles were first reported missing after an inventory check had discovered that cruisers were missing from the fleet (the LAPD has 1,800 black-and-white vehicles, according to KTLA). As noted at the L.A. Times, the cruisers would have to be signed out through an automated system before they are allowed out of the department motor pool; Beck said that the cadets used the identity of a sergeant (who was on vacation) to take the cruisers out.

“The cadets were sophisticated enough to sign these cars out … not in their own names, but in the names of police officers who had a right and a responsibility to use these cars,” Beck said. “They gamed that system.” He said an investigation after the chase had discovered that a third vehicle had also been stolen—after an interrogation with one of the suspects, the third vehicle was recovered near the LAPD's 77th street station.

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No weapons were in the cruisers, said Beck. But he added that two Tasers, two police radios and a bulletproof vest were recovered. Beck added that the cadets may have impersonated police officers when they had the cruisers in their possession, and advises people to call the LAPD if they believed they'd encountered "very young-appearing male and female partners" recently.

Beck said that he's "directed a top-to-bottom review of our cadet program," and added that he hopes the incident doesn't mar the reputation of the program, which involves more than 2,300 cadets. "The vast majority of these young people come from difficult neighborhoods, and have taken to the Los Angeles Police Department as not only mentors, but as a way to improve their education and increase their opportunities," said Beck. "I don't want the actions of these three individuals to reflect negatively on the other 2,300."