LOS ANGELES – Three teenagers in a program for those who want to be officers stole three Los Angeles Police department vehicles and went on patrol around the city before leading authorities on a wild chase that ended with crashes, Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.
The trio — two boys and a girl between the age of 15, 16 and 17 — “gamed the system” and used a vacation sergeant name to report stun guns and radios and the cars drive straight out of a stationhouse parking space, Beck said. The police are investigating whether the teens impersonated officers and pulled over drivers.
The three were arrested Wednesday after two activities ended with a crash in South Los Angeles. A third police car was later found at the corner of a police station.
Beck said that he had ordered a thorough revision of the department’s cadet program and policy for the management of the stock.
“We’re going to this apart from top to bottom,” Beck said at a news conference. “We are going to see what we can do better and we’re going to do.”
The three were part of a program for teenagers volunteers who work in police stations and go through a academy to learn more about the criminal justice system.
The authorities are still trying to figure out exactly when the cars were taken, but Beck said that investigators were looking into the possibility that at least one of the vehicles had been missing since May 28.
Police first grew suspicious when a sergeant who was conducting a routine inventory noticed a patrol vehicle was missing. Investigators later reviewed surveillance video showed a young woman with the vehicle at a petrol pump, ” he said.
An officer who was patrolling in the South of Los Angeles, on Wednesday saw two of the stolen police cars drive at each other and tried to withdraw. The teens behind the wheel refused to stop and led police on pursuits that ended with two separate crashes.
A woman sustained a minor injury at the end of one of the activities, said Josh Rubenstein, a spokesman of the police. She was “an innocent bystander in a separate car,” he said.
The third car was later recovered when one of the teenagers turned out to be the location of the officers, Beck said.
The teens were arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft and other charges. One was wearing a bulletproof vest that had been taken from a police station, the chief said.
Beck said that there was no evidence of any actual police officers were involved in the theft.