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LAPD cadet program to get top-to-bottom review

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department’s civilian watchdog will review the LAPD’s embattled cadet program in the wake of a scandal involving seven cadets arrested for their alleged involvement in stealing squad cars.

Inspector General Alex Bustamante told the Los Angeles Times that he will heed the request of Police Commission President Matt Johnson and look into how the department recruits and trains the members of the cadet program, which is open to eligible youth between the ages of 13 and 20.

The inspector general oversees complaints about the department and reports directly to the five-member commission, which meets every Tuesday.

Police Chief Charlie Beck has promised his own “top-to-bottom” review of the program, and Johnson said he is confident the chief will “get to the bottom of this and ensure all responsible parties, especially supervisors, are held fully accountable.”

Beck reiterated his support for the cadet program at a graduation ceremony June 24 for hundreds of cadets.

“They’re our youth, they’re our future,” Beck said, “and what they gain from this program is invaluable and we will make sure that we recommit to those values today.”

“You wouldn’t be in this program, you wouldn’t have graduated, if you didn’t know what the right thing was,” he told the class.

The ceremony came just days after seven cadets were arrested for their alleged involvement in stealing LAPD squad cars — which culminated in two high speed chases and crashes — and an officer was arrested for allegedly having sex with one of the accused cadets.

Officer Robert Cain, 31, a 10-year LAPD veteran, was arrested June 22 for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl who was a member of the LAPD’s cadet program. Beck personally took Cain into custody at the 77th Street Division station, where he is assigned.

Cain’s arrest came after the arrest of seven juvenile participants stemming from the theft of three police cruisers. The 15-year-old girl involved in the alleged sexual relationship with Cain is one of the seven, according to the chief.

Three cadets were arrested at the end of two vehicle pursuits the night of June 14. Police recovered the two cruisers involved in the chases, then found a third parked nearby. Four additional cadets were later arrested.

Six of the arrested cadets were assigned to the 77th Street Division program and one was assigned to the Pacific Division. Beck last week suspended the cadet program at those two divisions.

The cadets are believed to have pulled people over while impersonating officers and also are suspected of stealing LAPD equipment, including tasers, radios and a bulletproof vest.

Investigators believe the cadets used their knowledge of the LAPD’s computer inventory system to check the vehicles out under the name of a sergeant who was on vacation, Beck said.

City Councilman Mitch Englander, an LAPD reserve officer and the chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee expressed his concern about Cain’s arrest and the thefts of the police cars.

“Anyone wearing the uniform must uphold a standard of conduct worthy of the morals and values of our police department,” Englander said. “I have full confidence that Chief Beck will continue to pursue a thorough and complete investigation and stand ready to provide any additional resources that may be required, up to and including an independent investigation.”

Englander also introduced a motion at the June 23 City Council meeting calling for a full investigation and audit of all LAPD youth programs.

“It is during this challenging time that we must look to the example of thousands of honorable officers dedicated to restoring the character and dignity of this vital leadership opportunity for our youth,” Englander said.

The cadet program has more than 2,300 active participants.