Crime & Justice

LAPD cadet scandal rooted in poor supervision, report says

Chief Charlie Beck personally arrested Officer Robert Cain, who allegedly had sex with an underage police cadet.
Chief Charlie Beck personally arrested Officer Robert Cain, who allegedly had sex with an underage police cadet.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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Whether it’s the keys to squad cars or teenagers interested in learning the ropes of policing, LAPD supervision and oversight are lacking. That’s the conclusion of a report by the inspector general, who delivers his findings to the Police Commission Tuesday.

The commission ordered the report after the scandal earlier this year that led to the arrests of seven cadets for stealing cars and other gear.

Officer Robert Cain, 31, was also arrested for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old cadet. 

Beck personally arrested Cain in a dramatic show of his disdain for the alleged conduct. Cain ran the equipment room at the division where the car keys and gear were taken.

The scandal has rocked the department, which has long considered its 2,000-member cadet program one of its signature community services.

The report says the LAPD is doing a bad job of keeping track of crucial equipment like shotguns, tasers and the keys to squad cars.

The report suggests little attention has been paid to the so-called kit rooms – secure storage areas at each division where officers check out equipment. Running them is hardly a coveted job – sometimes it goes to an injured officer on restricted duty.

Those officers often have other duties as well. When the minder isn’t around, officers seeking equipment sometimes write down what they took on post-it notes, according to the report.

On top of that, there’s no department manual for how to run the rooms. Each division has its own procedures. Keys to the kit rooms presented problems too.

"At multiple areas, one set of kitroom keys was left at the front desk for use when the assigned kitroom officer was unavailable," the report says. "However, officers at several stations said the kitroom doors were occasionally propped open to allow access when the kitroom officer or keys were not available."

The inspector general recommends the LAPD regularly inventory its police cars and place restrictions on who can access kitroom computers. The report also says the department should consider having civilians oversee equipment.

The LAPD has set up a working group, and says it’s following the recommendations on kitrooms as well as those on the cadet program.

The inspector general says officers who supervise the cadets, who are between 13 and 20 years old, receive little training, and that one officer can be dealing with as many as 60 cadets at a time.

The ratio at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Explorer Program is no more than 10 to one, according to the inspector general.

The report also noted wide funding disparities among cadet programs, which are based at LAPD divisions around the city and rely heavily on fundraising in the surrounding community.

The police commission, which sets policy at the LAPD, will consider the report and its recommendations at its Tuesday meeting.

This story was updated to reflect that the Police Commission, not Chief Beck, ordered the report on the cadet program.