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LAPD chief: Teenage cadets stole cop cars, possibly impersonated officers

Three teenagers participating in the Los Angeles Police Department's cadet program were arrested Wednesday night in South L.A. after they stole police vehicles, stun guns, radios, and a bulletproof vest, then led officers on two different chases, Police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.

Beck said its also possible the teens, two males and one female whose identities are not being revealed because they are juveniles, impersonated police officers while driving the cruisers. Law enforcement officials told the Los Angeles Times one of the police cars was stolen from a parking garage at the LAPD Central Division, and another from the 77th Street station in South Los Angeles; Beck said a third car that was missing has been recovered.

The cadet program is open to young people between the ages of 13 and 20, who have at least a 2.0 GPA and "maintain good moral character." The goal is to strengthen relationships between the city's youth and police officers and teach them leadership and life skills. After completing 18 weeks of training, the cadets can volunteer at stations across the city. Beck is calling for a "top to bottom" review of the program, but said the department is still "proud" of it and "we don't want the actions of these three individuals to reflect negatively on the other 2,300 cadets."