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LAPD officer accused of falsifying gang records faced earlier credibility questions but stayed on elite unit

Ben Poston, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles police officer charged last week with falsifying records and obstructing justice in the department's gang-framing scandal was allowed to work in an elite division even though questions were raised about his credibility five years ago, according to records reviewed by The Times.

L.A. County prosecutors allege LAPD Officer Braxton Shaw falsified 43 field interview cards and said that he and two other officers wrote on the cards that people admitted to being gang members, when footage from the officers' body cameras showed no such admissions or showed the people had explicitly denied gang affiliation. Prosecutors also allege the officers made up more than a dozen "fictional" gang members.

Shaw is one of more than 20 members of the vaunted LAPD Metropolitan Division under investigation amid suspicions that officers falsified field interview cards from traffic stops and entered incorrect information in an effort to boost stop statistics. Two other officers were charged with obstruction of justice and filing false police reports Friday.

Information from the interview cards can be added to CalGang, a statewide database for gathering names and personal details of people suspected of being active gang members or associates. The database has come under scrutiny after a state audit found errors and police reform advocates say it is operating under old guidelines that disproportionately impact Black and Latino men.

LAPD announced last month it would suspend the use of CalGang, citing questions about its accuracy and wanting to "avoid any adverse impact on individuals, particularly in communities of color."

In 2015, a prosecutor discovered that video from an LAPD patrol car contradicted testimony Shaw gave about a weapons arrest. The following year, a judge tossed an unrelated firearm case after prosecutors disclosed their office's investigation of Shaw, according to court records.

 

According to a memo from the district attorney's office, Shaw testified he was traveling southbound, but the footage shows he was traveling the opposite direction and made a U-turn to make the stop. The video also contradicted his testimony about which lane the defendant's car was stopped.

Prosecutors decided not to charge him with perjury because there wasn't sufficient evidence that he intentionally made false statements. Also, the statements did not relate to the underlying crime "so there is no obvious motive for Shaw to lie," according to the memo.

Greg Yacoubian, an attorney for Shaw, said his client did nothing improper and will be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing once all the facts are known.

A 12-year veteran, Shaw has been listed as a potential witness in more than 70 felony cases since he testified about the arrest, district attorney's records show.

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