Police report due on use of force at May Day rally

Posted On Dec 30 2019 by

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas City“What we want to have is real learning and consequence. Nobody needs to sugarcoat what happened. We all saw it,” said Angelica Salas, an organizer who was at the pro-immigrant rally in the park when police swept in. “I think that what we are expecting is concrete, institutional changes.” In addition to demoting two commanders and setting up a special crowd-control unit, LAPD Chief William Bratton has apologized for the conduct of his officers and begun crowd-control training for all officers. A preliminary report on the melee blamed a breakdown in command structure and poor officer communication. The report due out Tuesday is authored by head of the department’s consent decree bureau, Gerald Chaleff, and the new crowd control bureau deputy chief, Michael Hillman. “It’s a first step in the analysis,” said Anthony Pacheco, president of the police commission that oversees the LAPD. Five months after LAPD officers drew scorn by firing rubber bullets into crowds of women and children and roughing up journalists at a peaceful May Day rally, the department is expected to release its long-awaited report this week on what went wrong. Widely seen as an overreaction to a few troublemakers, the LAPD’s response at the May 1 MacArthur Park rally prompted more than a 100 lawsuits and claims, two demotions and creation of a special LAPD crowd-control unit. The report is expected to detail the LAPD’s account of what happened at the rally and why. So far, LAPD officials have refused to discuss its content, saying only that it will not name officers involved. But critics say the LAPD’s response to the May Day melee has further strained the department’s relationship with the immigrant community. They want to see rank-and-file officers punished, and they say the report will be a key indicator of whether the LAPD is serious about reform. Though Pacheco said that as of Friday he had not seen a draft of the Tuesday report, he said it should “give a level of transparency that is unmatched in the city’s history.” “My expectation is that this will drill down a lot further on what is the thinking going on and the role of the department.” But he said he is withholding judgment on officer punishment and further inquiries until he sees the report. The fracas, which police have said was caused by agitators, created immediate public outcry in the immigrant community. Images of abusive police behavior were repeatedly broadcast – partly because journalists themselves were subject to some harsh treatment by LAPD officers. The incident forced Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to cut short a trade tour in Mexico and Central America. For weeks after, Bratton did damage control, reaching out to members of the media and Latino community and calling the incident regrettable and an “aberration.” The preliminary report described a chaotic scene in which officers clad in riot gear forced thousands of people from the park, poking many with batons and firing rubber bullets. Dispersal orders could not be heard over the roar of a helicopter and when police barked orders in English many of the Spanish-speaking crowd could not understand. There was no media safety zone, as is LAPD policy, and it was unclear who provided commands to sweep everyone from the crowded park. Carol Sobel, who is representing more than a dozen clients in a lawsuit against the city over the incident, said the report should conclude that the LAPD failed to adequately notify the crowd to disperse and that nothing could have justified the aggressive officer response. “Anything less than that would be dishonest,” she said. The Office of the Inspector General, which oversees police handling of complaints of misconduct by officers, will complete its own report on how the LAPD handled the incident and its follow-up investigation. “I would hope that what we see is a frank and candid assessment of what occurred,” said Andre Birotte, the inspector general. “That includes pre-planning, implementation and where errors were made in accountability.” Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes the park, said he wants people to be held accountable. “I look forward that changes are being proposed,” Reyes said. “The department recognizes its weaknesses.” Part of that, says longtime LAPD observer and civil rights lawyer Connie Rice, should be rethinking the elite unit that was in charge of crowd control that day. “They need to have a ruthlessly aggressive analysis of Metro which has not been touched by Bratton,” she said. “Metro is one of the last bastions of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite that does what it wants and how it wants.” Still, even some critics say that the LAPD has turned a corner, responding quickly to the crisis and acknowledging mistakes. “For people who already had serious doubts about the department and its fairness for people of color, it’s just going to reinforce it,” said Police Commissioner John Mack, a longtime civil rights leader. “But I feel comfortable, up until this point, that Chief Bratton has been forthcoming about the terrible, terrible incident from the very beginning, acknowledging a lot of things went wrong.” Villaraigosa, who praised Bratton for his quick response, is expected to hold a news conference immediately after the report’s release. “The mayor looks forward to a full and comprehensive review of the errors made by the department on May 1 so that those errors can be corrected and never again repeated,” said Matt Szabo, a mayoral spokesman. 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