LOS ANGELES -- If the group of young Los Angeles police cadets accused of stealing department vehicles had any fear of getting caught, they certainly didn't show it.
For weeks, according to documents, the teens drove to and from LAPD-related events and on joyrides as far away as Corona (50 miles) and Santa Clarita (33 miles). Some of the cadets used the cars to perform "doughnuts" behind an Inglewood store, and one drove a stolen LAPD vehicle to his job at a Ross Dress for Less store.
There were other blatant actions: A high-ranking cadet described as "the ringleader" of the group asked someone to film him driving a cruiser, and they often drove with lights flashing and sirens blaring -- in one instance racing through South L.A. to Hawthorne to move one teen's personal vehicle before it was towed.
Still, it took Los Angeles police nearly two months to discover the cadets' alleged misbehavior and take action.
The new details about the alleged activities are contained in a search warrant recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
As police continue to investigate the cadet scandal, the key question is less why the youths took advantage of their positions but why their actions went undetected for so long.
"What they were doing was stupid, but they weren't exactly stupid," Deputy Chief Horace Frank said. "They were smart enough to try to hide their activities to the best of their knowledge."
Frank said that LAPD personnel who might have seen the cadets driving the police cars could have reasonably assumed they were simply younger officers.
"When you look back, you can say, 'Well, how come no one noticed that?'" Frank said. "We have a lot of young-looking officers. ... There's so many officers that are looking like that, we're at that stage where it's not that odd until after the fact."
The new disclosures are contained in court papers related to Robert Cain, a now-former LAPD officer accused of having sex with a 15-year-old female cadet. Luis Carrillo, the girl's attorney, said the delay in uncovering the alleged transgressions showed the department needed much closer supervision of the teens.