A Los Angeles police officer was arrested on suspicion of having unlawful sex with a 15-year-old member of the cadet program, and may have had knowledge of the alleged theft of police cruisers and other equipment by cadets in recent weeks, Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.
Beck said he personally arrested Officer Robert Cain, 31, a 10-year veteran of the department, at the LAPD’s 77th Street Division at 11 a.m. Thursday.
“I find the actions of Cain, if they are proven, to be despicable,” Beck said at a news conference.
Investigators learned of the sexual misconduct allegations on Wednesday, as part of a larger review of the theft of three LAPD cruisers and other supplies that was revealed last week.
The victim, identified only as a 15-year-old girl, was one of the cadets involved in the thefts, Beck said.
Cain was the officer assigned to the equipment room at 77th Street Division, according to Beck, who earlier this week said lax security of the station’s equipment locker may have played a role in the alleged theft of police cruisers and other equipment by LAPD cadets.
Beck described the relationship between Cain and the cadet as “short-term,” and said none of the sexual encounters took place on LAPD property. Cain was not assigned to the department’s youth programs and does not have a significant disciplinary history, Beck said.
Investigators uncovered text messages between Cain and the cadet that “indicate inappropriate behavior,” Beck said.
The case has not yet been presented to the Los Angeles district attorney’s office, according to a spokeswoman for the agency.
The investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations came from an ongoing review of the LAPD’s cadet program. Last week, Beck said three cadets had been arrested and accused of stealing three cruisers from department garages. Officers chased two of the stolen cruisers through South L.A. on June 14, resulting in separate car crashes.
The investigation into the stolen cruisers quickly focused on a 16-year-old girl, Beck said last week. Two other teenage cadets, boys aged 15 and 17, also were arrested. Bulletproof vests, police radios and Tasers were also stolen by some of the cadets, Beck has said.
Earlier this week, Beck told the Los Angeles Police Commission that four more cadets, aged 14 to 18, had been arrested in connection with the thefts.
The only adult cadet arrested in the probe was identified as Leonel Flores, an 18-year-old from Los Angeles. The others have not been identified because they are minors.
Six of the cadets were assigned to the 77th Street Division. Beck has suspended the cadet program at the 77th Street and Pacific divisions pending further review.
Detectives plan to search Cain’s locker, residence and social media accounts for evidence of any other inappropriate relationships. At this time, police do not believe any other sworn personnel were involved, Beck said.
Cain’s alleged actions were quickly denounced by police leaders and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“There is no higher priority than protecting and guiding our young people — and when they become LAPD cadets, every parent should feel confident that they will be treated with the utmost care every step of the way. The charges against this officer are deeply disturbing, and I have been assured he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the mayor said in a statement. “These allegations represent a total breach of the trust we place in everyone who wears the uniform and a violation of the oath all officers take to protect and serve.”
In a separate statement, the union that represents rank-and-file officers said there “should be zero tolerance for any officer who takes advantage of those they are entrusted to protect.”
LAPD brass has long pointed to the cadet program as a success story. Thousands of young people, 13 to 20 years old, have participated over the years. The goal is to foster relationships between the city’s youth and police while helping participants develop skills that will aid them later in life. Currently, about 2,300 cadets are enrolled.
Cadets participate in an 18-week academy training program, taking various classes while 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, including passing out fliers alerting residents about crimes in their neighborhood.
Beck is scheduled to speak to the entire cadet class at a graduation ceremony Saturday, and has repeatedly said he hopes the continually unfolding scandal does not tarnish the program as a whole.
This is not the first time a city police officer has been accused of sexual misconduct in connection with the cadet program. Officer Abel Montes de Oca was arrested in 2015 and accused of trying to solicit an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 16-year-old cadet.
He was convicted of two counts of sending harmful material to a teenager this year, according to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.
4:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details from Beck.
4:15 p.m.: This article was updated with details about the investigation from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at a news conference.
3:35 p.m.: This article was updated with details of the officer’s arrest.
This article first published at 2:30 p.m.