Some of our cruis­ers are miss­ing

Los An­ge­les cops find car thieves among their own cadets

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

No good deed goes un­pun­ished, as the folk say­ing goes, and the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment has solved the mys­tery of what hap­pened to three of their po­lice cruis­ers. Three teenage cadets, 15, 16 and 17 years old, saw an op­por­tu­nity for a joy ride, and took it.

The three, in­clud­ing a girl, were mem­bers of the depart­ment’s “cadets,” hailed as a suc­cess in build­ing part­ner­ships be­tween po­lice of­fi­cers and the city’s young, many of them “trou­bled” and from trou­bled neigh­bor­hoods, of which Los An­ge­les has plenty.

The cadets take a 16-hour course in “lifebuild­ing skills,” and work with the po­lice as vol­un­teers at Los An­ge­les Dodgers base­ball games and the Los An­ge­les Marathon. Base­ball games are well and good, for most of the 2,300 cadets, but there’s no thrill like speed­ing down the av­enue, lights flash­ing and siren wail­ing, and some­times even try­ing to im­per­son­ate a po­lice­man, as dif­fi­cult as that may be for a 16-year-old.

Chief Char­lie Beck or­dered “a top-to-bot­tom re­view” of the in­ci­dent about how it hap­pened. “We’re go­ing to look at this, how they did it, and we’re go­ing to make sure it doesn’t hap­pen again.”

How they did it was to ap­ply teenage cu­rios­ity and youth­ful in­ge­nu­ity to break into the depart­ment’s com­puter sys­tem. The cruis­ers must be signed out through a com­put­er­ized pro­ce­dure be­fore they can be driven out of the depart­ment mo­tor pool, but the cadets used the name and pass­word of a po­lice sergeant they knew was on va­ca­tion. “They were so­phis­ti­cated enough to game the sys­tem,” says Chief Beck.

Shortly af­ter the cars were dis­cov­ered to be miss­ing, the search fo­cused on a 16-year-old girl af­ter a video cam­era showed her re­fu­el­ing the car at a depart­ment gaso­line pump. Two hours later, two of the miss­ing cars were seen to­gether by po­lice, but the driv­ers ig­nored po­lice com­mands to pull to the side of the av­enue. Both cars sped away and led other po­lice cars on chases through the crowded streets be­fore one crashed into a build­ing and the other hit an “un­in­volved mo­torist.” No­body was hurt.

Po­lice re­cov­ered a bul­let­proof vest worn by one of the cadets, and two tasers and two po­lice ra­dios. A third cruiser was dis­cov­ered miss­ing, and it was re­cov­ered on a street near a po­lice sta­tion. Peace de­scended on the streets, if only for a mo­ment, and the po­lice cadets were taken into cus­tody by an­noyed — and slightly cha­grined — po­lice of­fi­cers. Real ones.

“We’re very proud of our cadet pro­gram,” Chief Beck says. “I don’t want the ac­tions of these three cadets to re­flect on the other 2,300 cadets.” It’s too bad for the three cadets, who blew off an op­por­tu­nity of a life­time. They might have grown up to be real cops.

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