Three teen members of an LAPD youth program were arrested Wednesday after stealing two police cruisers, leading officers on a wild chase and crashing the cars, cops said.
A third police cruiser, stolen in May, was found parked at one cadet's south Los Angeles home. The teen arrested in connection with that car was wearing a police bulletproof vest stolen from the vehicle.
The 15-year-old boy, 16-year-old girl, and 17-year-old boy were all members of the department’s cadet program, where teens who want to become police officers can learn about the criminal justice system, according to The Associated Press.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he believed they accessed the department’s inventory system using a vacationing sergeant’s name to sign out the cars and other equipment, including stun guns and radios.
“We do daily inventory checks on equipment,” Beck said in a press conference. “Obviously didn’t work in this case."
He said the department discovered the cars were missing at about 5 p.m. Wednesday, and dispatched 30 patrol units to recover them.
The two stolen police cars were found parked side-by-side at about 8:30 p.m. that night, when the teen drivers sped off separately and refused to stop.
Both chases ended as the teen drivers crashed the cars against buildings. A patrol car driven by an officer was involved in a third crash. No one was reported injured.
Upon arrest, one of the teens admitted to a third car they stole in May, parked at another cadet’s home nearby.
They were then able to track down the patrol car and arrest the third teen.
“We have a lot of vehicles and there are a lot of moving parts,” Beck said. “That’s not an excuse. We are going to take this apart, top to bottom.
Beck said his department now fears the teens may have been impersonating officers while driving in the cruisers.
All three teens were arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft and other charges.
No actual police officers are believed to be involved in the thefts, Beck said.