The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office confirmed this week that it had begun dropping or dismissing more than a dozen criminal cases relating to a group of LAPD officials who are now suspected of filing fake reports.
The cases date back to 2016 and were law enforcement actions that relied heavily on the accounts of officers Braxton Shaw and Michael Coblentz, two of three officers charged in a 59-point criminal complaint that they were accused of conspiracy having to submit incorrect information.
A third officer, Nicolas Martinez, was also charged with Shaw and Coblentz. All three should appear in court for the first time in October.
"The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office has identified cases where officers Shaw and Coblentz, who were partners at the time, were the only observable witnesses," the prosecutor said in a statement earlier this week.
"Our office is reviewing hundreds of pending and closed cases to see if issues affecting the officers' credibility undermine our belief that the entirety of the evidence would lead a jury to unequivocally convict the defendants," said it in the declaration.
Shaw, Coblentz and Martinez were the first to be prosecuted in a year-long investigation into forged field interview cards and other police documents allegedly classifying dozens of innocent drivers and pedestrians as gang members when they were not.
The DA office says it is still considering filing criminal charges against another 16 LAPD officers who were also investigated as part of the fake report. All officers were assigned to the department's Metropolitan Division.
Shaw was investigated back in 2016 after his testimony in court appeared to contradict a video recording of a camera mounted in a patrol car. No charges were brought in this case.
Shaw and the other officers examined were assigned to the Metro Division "C-Platoon". The unit expanded rapidly in 2015 and was deployed frequently to conduct street patrols in areas where crime had risen.
Several law enforcement agencies told NBCLA's I-Team that Metro Division officers had been pressured by their commanders to show that their patrols were productive.
The officers collected statistics on a daily basis about the number of people they had stopped and interviewed, the number of contacts with gang members, the number of arrests, and other metrics. Each day's statistics were collected for analysis by LAPD executives, and the sources say officers were told, "The more gang contacts, the better."
Chief Moore and other LAPD officials have denied the pressures to compile certain statistics, and Moore said the motive for filing the alleged false reports was not clear.
Last month, a subway officer named Samantha Fiedler sued the LAPD, claiming she had effectively been downgraded and removed from the subway as a result of the investigation. Fiedler's lawsuit also alleged that subway regulators were constantly pushing officers to report more contacts with gang members around the same time the suspect officers were allegedly filing the false interview reports.
"It was only about the number of arrests and FI cards. The minimum requirements had to be met," said Fiedler in the complaint.
"If an officer was on the metro for more than a day or two without being arrested by gangs or weapons, the command staff would make it clear that" production "needs to be increased." Production "was is and always has been LAPD Speak for more numbers on your summary, which means more arrests and FI cards, "according to their lawsuit.
The LAPD declined to address the allegations in Fiedler's lawsuit.
"Due to the pending litigation, we are unable to comment at this time," said LAPD Capt. Stacy Spell.
In July, the California Department of Justice revoked access to the LAPD's records in the state's Cal Gangs database of gang information after an audit found inaccuracies in the LAPD's records in the system.
The California Department of Justice said LAPD entries accounted for approximately 25% of the 78,000 current profiles in the Cal Gangs system.
"CalGang is only as good as the data it contains," Attorney General Becerra said in a prepared statement. "If a quarter of the program data is suspect, the usefulness of the entire system is rightly scrutinized."
The LAPD's examination of a sample of its officers' entries revealed problems with the data. A public report said that while most of the entries checked were correct, a small percentage appeared to have been fabricated and other entries made statements about respondents that could not be verified with body-worn videotapes or other evidence.
The LAPD's audit found that some officers never provided gang membership information about individuals interviewed who admitted to being gang members on camera, and at other times individuals denied being gang members but were reported as admitted by officers.
"The moodiness that results in someone not being documented as a gang member even if at the time of the encounter they admitted to being an active gang member of the officer, combined with others documented as a self-admitted gang member when they refuse to join the gang or not asked for gang membership invalidates the database, "wrote the LAPD examiners.