Two Los Angeles Police Department officers just caused an international incident by making a wrongful arrest—in France.
It happened in Marseille, where LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Assistant Chief Robert Marino were walking the streets after dinner with their wives, along with two LAPD officers as security detail.
On Nov. 17 around 11 p.m. local time, Moore, Marino, their wives, the security detail, and members of the French National police left a restaurant, according to police. A man walking down the street with a group bumped into Marino’s wife, who then accused him of stealing her cellphone.
The security team chased after the man and arrested him, but they and local authorities quickly realized the man hadn’t taken a thing from the commander’s wife, according to French police. And now, the department is opening an investigation into the wrongful stop, which took place more than 5,700 miles outside their jurisdiction, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The incident prompted an internal investigation, and the names of the LAPD officers involved are being withheld.
Moore and Marino were in France as part of a weeklong trip that had been organized so the top cops could meet with French law enforcement officials to discuss security plans for both the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in France and the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
The arrest led the man who was detained and others who were walking with him to file a complaint with the French authorities. Those complaints were then reported to the U.S. consulate.
Moore called the debacle an “unfortunate incident” and apologized to local officials in Marseille for the stop, the Times reported.
Police officers don’t generally have the authority to make arrests outside their own jurisdiction, let alone in other countries.
“When law enforcement officers leave the country, they don’t have any authority, even in other states,” Brian Higgins, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in New York, told VICE News. “They were outside their jurisdiction, they don’t have authority, and they were completely wrong.”
Higgins said the encounter could have become an international incident.
“I would have been a lot more sure of the allegations before you made an action,” he said. “Even if it was in the U.S., you should have been more sure. But to do it when you’re in another country during what we can call diplomatic efforts, it’s obviously embarrassing.”
The LAPD did not immediately respond to VICE News’ requests for comment.