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Report Finds LAPD Mishandled George Floyd Protests

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A report commissioned by the City Council has found that the Los Angeles Police Department mishandled last year's mass demonstrations following the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Protsting the death of George Floyd in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 30: Law enforcement push forward moving protesters in the Fairfax District on Saturday, May 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. Protests erupted across the country, with people outraged over the death of George Floyd, a black man killed after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The 101-page report, which was prepared by former members of the LAPD, including a retired commander and assistant chief, found deficiencies in crowd control tactics, planning, command and control, use of less-lethal tools, arrest practices, preparedness and officer wellness.

The report also found that many command officers lacked expertise in crowd control and were not provided with "meaningful or relevant command-level training."

"The department did not adequately prepare the department command staff for events such as those faced in May-June," according to the report, which says a fully staffed command post was not established until May 30, the fourth day of protests, and the officers assigned to the post did not have experience or training to successfully run it.

According to the report, that lack of training in crowd control tactics caused them to not, or not be able to, isolate and arrest the few people who were throwing objects, creating violence or looting.

The report also found that officers, collectively, employed a "significant amount" of less lethal too, including batons, bean bag shotguns, stringer grenades and 37mm and 40mm launchers — which some officers were not properly trained to use.

"Not all people struck with less lethal munitions during the protests were engaging in criminal behavior," the report said. "This appears to be in part due to the complex and rapid movement of the crowds and at times a lack of adequate training on the 40mm system."

LAPD released a statement that said department officials "will provide comments once we have had an opportunity to carefully review the report in its entirety," while also outlining recent training protocols.

"After the events of the summer, intensive crowd management and crowd control training was provided to nearly 4,200 personnel, including instruction on interaction with the media. Additionally, to date, over 7,500 officers have received command and control training. Following the implementation of the added training, the department successfully managed significant demonstrations and protests approaching and during the national elections and as well as leading up to and on the presidential inauguration. We will continue to look at lessons learned and make efforts to ensure people are able to express themselves safely."

And the Los Angeles Police Protective League called on elected officials and department leaders to ensure that its members received the support and resources needed for future protests. The officers' union said the report mirrored concerns raised by officers during a survey after the demonstrations.

"Our members clearly stated that we were understaffed, poorly equipped and that there was neither a clear mission nor strong command presence while officers grew fatigued from working excessively long hours to restore peace and protect the safety of everyone during the protests. We hope the concerns of our members and those identified in this report are acted upon by our elected and department leaders and the appropriate funding allocated so that we can avoid the same challenges in the future."

Hundreds protest the killing of George Floyd
Los Angeles, CA, Tuesday, June 2, 2020 - LAPD officer Decote watches for people tossing debris from tall buildings as dozens of protesters are arrested for curfew violations on Broadway. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The report's authors recommended that the department evaluate its use of the 40mm less lethal weapons in crowd control situations and potentially limit the weapon's deployment to officers who are well trained and have experience, which was the LAPD policy before 2017.

More than 100 LAPD members, city and plaintiff attorneys were interviewed by the group preparing the report, which also evaluated department documents, policies, directives and tactics to reach their findings.

Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, said he was not surprised by the findings.

"The report confirms what community leaders have known: that LAPD targeted protests against police brutality with abusive and repressive tactics, a far different approach than the 'kid gloves' treatment shown to right-wing protests like that at City Hall Jan. 6," he said, in reference to a demonstration held downtown the day of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The report also found that the department did not have a "clearly articulated plan" for the detention, transportation or processing of the 4,000 people arrested between May 29 and June 2 causing people to be held on the scene for hours without water or access to bathrooms while handcuffed on pavement, detained or bussed to remote locations all while in close proximity despite COVID-19 protocols.

And while a field jail was set up at the University of California - Los Angeles on June 1, those working it did not have appropriate training, which "contributed to the lengthy detention of many arrestees, causing them to be released in a location far from their arrest location and in violation of the curfew declaration," according to the report. That site was closed the following day after complaints from the college community, the report said.

The report also found that LAPD failed to communicate with the City Attorney regarding charges for arrests.

Overall, the report found flaws in the police department's training and preparedness and noted that officers were sleep-deprived throughout the protests due to the long hours they were made to work without relief.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he welcomed the report, its analysis and recommendations to improve LAPD's response to protests.

"Last summer's demonstrations were an unprecedented and inspiring moment in American history," he said. "Democracy and progress are hard work, but this report makes clear we need to see better training, policies, and procedures to meet this moment.

"We need to always protect and serve and it is critical to look inward at how we can do those jobs better, while we also facilitate peaceful protest and maintain safety," Garcetti continued. "I look forward to working with the Police Commission, City Council, the LAPD, and community stakeholders in implementing improvements suggested in this report and the two reports coming shortly."

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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