Three teenagers who were enrolled in the Los Angeles Police Department’s cadet program stole three police cruisers along with stun guns, radios and a bulletproof vest during a string of thefts then ended in a pair of car chases late Wednesday night, according to Police Chief Charlie Beck.
The cadets, whose identities were withheld because of their age, were arrested Wednesday night after two of the pursuits ended in crashes in South L.A., Beck said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
One of the vehicles that crashed was stolen from a parking garage at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Central Division, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. The other was allegedly taken from the LAPD’s 77th Street station in South Los Angeles, the sources said. A third vehicle went missing, but was later recovered, according to Beck.
The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the incident.
Beck, who said the cadets “may have impersonated police officers” while driving the stolen vehicles, said two stun guns, two police radios and a bulletproof vest were also stolen. One of the juvenile cadets was wearing an LAPD bulletproof vest when they were arrested on Wednesday night, Beck said.
LAPD brass has long pointed to the cadet program as a success story. Thousands of young people between 13 and 20 have participated over the years. The goal is to foster relationships between the city’s youth and police while helping participants develop leadership and life skills.
Beck has ordered a “top to bottom” review of the program, and said he hopes the actions of these cadets would not tarnish the entire initiative.
“We’re very proud of our cadet program and we don’t want the actions of these three individuals to reflect negatively on the other 2,300” cadets, Beck said.
Two males and one female were apprehended, according to a police spokeswoman.
Officer Aareon Jefferson, a department spokesman, said it was easy for pursuing officers to identify the SUVs as stolen because the drivers weren’t in uniform.
“We don’t recognize them,” Jefferson said.
Two of the cadets were assigned to the 77th Street station, according to two law enforcement sources.
Cadets enroll in an 18-week academy training program, taking various classes and getting an introduction to police work. After completing their training, cadets can be assigned to one of the city’s police stations, where they may volunteer for a wide array of tasks such as working Dodgers games or the L.A….