LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – As a growing scandal is emerging, the Los Angeles Police Department held a graduation ceremony for its cadet program Saturday.
The ceremony came just days after seven cadets were recently arrested for their alleged involvement in stealing LAPD squad cars — which culminated in two high speed chases and crashes. An officer was arrested for allegedly having sex with one of the accused cadets.READ MORE: Lakers Handle Celtics 117-102, Split Rivalry For Season
Despite the arrests, LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck expressed support for the cadet program and took accountability for its future when he addressed the other 2,200 cadets at their graduation ceremony Saturday at USC Galen Center. The program is open to eligible youth between the ages of 13 and 20.
“We are committed to the safety of these young people, and to the development of their futures,” Beck said Saturday.
Beck described the ceremony as coming on a “somber day” given the recent events, which he did not describe in detail.
“My commitment to you, is I will protect the integrity of your positions,” Beck said. “I will make sure, that should someone, again, abuse one of your cadets, step outside the parameters of the program, cause the program to be questioned, that I will take swift and decisive action. And that I will protect your position in this.”
Officer Robert Cain, 31, a 10-year LAPD veteran, was arrested Thursday for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl who was a member of the LAPD’s cadet program. Beck personally took Cain into custody at the 77th Street Division station, where he is assigned.
Cain’s arrest came after the arrest of seven juvenile participants stemming from the theft of three police cruisers. The 15-year-old girl involved in the alleged sexual relationship with Cain is one of those seven, according to the chief.
Three cadets were arrested at the end of two vehicle pursuits the night of June 14. Police recovered the two cruisers involved in the chases, then found a third parked nearby. Four additional cadets were later arrested.
An emotional Beck delivered a message to the LAPD as a whole regarding the cadets.READ MORE: Retired Judge To Investigate Claims Riverside County Failed To Protect Turpin Children After They Were Freed
“You will protect them like they are your own. And that includes those who would harm them, those who would abuse their authority.”
He also challenged the cadets to maintain a strong moral compass.
“You will never get to your final goal, the goal of being a complete person with strong morals, strong ethics, good work habits… if you close doors and take wrong roads now.”
“Be ethically correct, do the right thing… and you all know what the right thing is,” Beck added.
Six of the arrested cadets were assigned to the 77th Street Division program and one was assigned to the Pacific Division. Beck last week suspended the cadet program at those two divisions.
The cadets are believed to have pulled people over while impersonating officers and also are suspected of stealing LAPD equipment, including tasers, radios and a bulletproof vest.
Investigators believe the cadets used their knowledge of the LAPD’s computer inventory system to check the vehicles out under the name of a sergeant who was on vacation, Beck said.
On Friday, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander called for a thorough investigation of the cadet program. Englander, a reserve police officer, introduced a motion at Friday’s city council meeting calling for a full, public investigation and audit of all LAPD youth programs. That includes how they are run and who runs them, to how they are paid for and reviewed.
“We gotta make sure parents feel safe when they’re sending their kids to these programs, particularly when the men and women are wearing a badge and a uniform,” Englander told CBS2.MORE NEWS: Family Mourn Teenager Shot And Killed Near Boyle Heights Recreation Center
(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)