LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Officials from the Los Angeles Police Department are investigating two officers who allegedly operated a military-style boot camp for kids that employed harsh physical methods.
The Juvenile Intervention Program, which bills itself on its website as a 12-week program that will “improve the lives of “at risk” youth and their families by implementing structure, self-discipline and respect,” has been operating its weekend classes in Hollywood since at least February, according to the program’s website.
Two online videos show drill instructors screaming at young participants, disparaging them, and, in at least one instance, challenging one child to a fight. Much of the footage shows the children struggling to complete sets of push-ups and other difficult endurance exercises. In one scene, a group of exhausted-looking girls calls out, “316, sir,” as they count off another squat with their hands held behind their heads. Several kids are seen crying during the exercises or as instructors lean down into their faces to shout at them.
In one scene, a male officer pushes a girl from her knees into push-up position. In another, a young boy is brought to tears by an expletive-filled tirade.
The program and videos were first reported by the Los Angeles Daily News.
Several of the instructors are shown wearing holstered guns and uniforms from the city’s General Services police–an agency that soon will become part of the LAPD, but traditionally has been separate. The chief of the General Services force did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith confirmed the department was investigating two LAPD officers, who reportedly started the program. Smith would not elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation. Police sources who requested their names not be used because they were not permitted to discuss the details of the case, said the department was investigating the way children were treated, whether the organizers improperly billed the program as being associated with the LAPD, and the program’s finances.
Although its website says the program is a charity with tax-free status, no program with its name is listed in a charity database kept by the federal government and a for-profit company with the group’s name was created last year, state records show. The program charges $200 for each child, according to its website.
One of the LAPD officers who runs the program is identified on the videos as Alejandro Nava, a 17-year department veteran. Nava did not return an e-mail seeking comment.
The program seems to be modeled closely on a boot camp sanctioned by the LAPD that uses officers as drill instructors. Smith, however, said instructors in the department’s program are closely vetted and monitored. “If someone is running another juvenile program and identifying themselves as an LAPD officer…that could lead parents to mistakenly believe we sanction it. That could lead to problems,” Smith said.