LAPD Report Faults Training, Tactics In Immigration Rally Clash

Tuesday, October 9th 2007, 7:47 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A Police Department report Tuesday blamed its own policies, training and commanders for fueling a club-swinging melee at an immigration rally in which police beat demonstrators and reporters to the ground.

The 90-page report represented an unusually critical look inward for a department that has faced numerous accusations of misconduct over the years, particularly from minorities, and charges that it first and foremost protects its own.

No one was critically hurt at the May 1 clash at MacArthur Park near downtown, but images of baton-wielding officers pummeling people played repeatedly on newscasts, creating a public relations disaster and leading to lawsuits and several investigations.

The report depicted a scene of virtual chaos in which poorly trained officers were taking directions from commanders who didn't recognize the seriousness of what was unfolding and failed to communicate among themselves.

The findings were presented to the Police Commission, the panel that serves as the department's civilian board of directors. Its president, Anthony Pacheco, warned that ``my fellow commissioners and I will hold the department accountable for any misconduct that occurred.''

More than two dozen officers are under investigation and could face discipline for using excessive force.

At a news conference at City Hall, Chief William Bratton apologized for the department's actions.

``This is an event that I deeply regret,'' Bratton said. ``I accept full responsibility for it because it occurred on my watch. My apologies to the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department and to the public.''

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the report a first step. He said he agreed with Bratton that ``what happened was wrong and we are determined to make it right.''

The report included a host of recommendations to improve police operations, including reviewing crowd-control policies each year. Some questioned whether it went far enough.

``We did not hear the measures that will be taken to guarantee that it will not happen again and, therefore, the report is incomplete,'' said Angela Sanbrano, president of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, an advocacy group.

The report echoed previous disclosures by Bratton. According to police accounts, the clash broke out after ``agitators'' showered police with rocks, chunks of concrete and bottles. Bratton has faulted a breakdown in police command for escalating the conflict, in which officers used batons and fired dozens of bean bags, sponges and other ``non-lethal'' projectiles to disperse a crowd of demonstrators and journalists.

Beyond the poor planning and tactics used by police, some actions by officers ``appeared to be unjustified,'' the report said. It questioned not only the use of force but ``why didn't other officers ... intervene.''

Since the melee, there has been a staff shake-up at the Police Department. Deputy Chief Caylor ``Lee'' Carter was demoted and retired. Several investigations are under way. The city is facing hundreds of lawsuits stemming from the melee.

The district attorney's office said in a statement Tuesday that an investigation by its Justice System Integrity Division remains open. ``Once all evidence is received, the case will be reviewed to determine whether criminal charges are warranted,'' it said.