A new report excoriated Los Angeles police for the department’s actions during last summer’s protests following the death of George Floyd, blaming the agency for a litany of missteps made on the city’s streets.
Among the report’s findings were: secret “shadow teams” of undercover officers embedded among protestors, with no effective way to relay their intelligence to police brass. A “chaos of command” system where top staff didn’t know who was in charge and contradicted each others’ orders. Minimal training on the use of hard-foam projectile weapons. Poor detention conditions for arrestees amid a pandemic. Antiquated tactics and neglected reforms that had been agreed upon after the mishandling of previous demonstrations over the last two decades.
The independent report, released Thursday, delved into “institutional issues” and did not address allegations of misconduct and excessive force against individual officers.
Protests across the city in late May and into June were largely peaceful, but pockets of violence and crime erupted on the city’s streets. Hundreds were injured or accused police of violating their rights during clashes and mass arrests, prompting several lawsuits. Scores of businesses were damaged or looted. More than 106 officers were injured.
“At times, the Department did not, or was not able to, isolate and arrest those criminal elements who were throwing objects, creating violence, or looting due in part to the use of antiquated tactics and lack of training on public order policing,” the report said.
The report was commissioned by the City Council and completed by former top brass at the department. Reviews by LAPD staff and the National Police Foundation remain ongoing.
The LAPD had entered into several multi-million dollar legal settlement agreements after confrontations with protesters over the last 20 years, dating back to the 2000 Democratic National Convention. The department agreed to the reforms, but the report found that police officials had not kept up with them for several years and some of the same issues surfaced during the summer’s civil unrest.
“It is unfortunate that the same issues have arisen again and again, with the department being unable or unwilling to rectify the problem,” the report said.
The LAPD said Thursday it was still reviewing the report, adding that it was premature to make detailed comments. But a statement said the department has already begun new crowd management and control training as a result of the summer’s protests.
“The opportunity to learn from our mistakes, to grow, and become better servants to our community is something that has been embraced and we look forward to leaning into the challenges and being better,” the statement said.
The LAPD report came as two Northern California civil rights organizations and demonstrators, including a man who lost his right eye, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the city of San Jose, saying police officers used excessive force against protesters who took to the streets last year.
In Los Angeles, the report specifically faulted the department for failing to train officers adequately in the use of hard-foam projectile weapons, as well as placing commanders on the streets although they did not have recent crowd-control instruction. Mass arrests of protesters without a clear plan left demonstrators detained for hours, even as some were only held on citations and should never have been held for that long, according to the report.
Additionally, the department’s deployment of skirmish lines was “useless” in controlling small groups of violent agitators with peaceful protestors who were shouting with their hands up in a non-threatening manner, the report said.
The report’s recommendations included new training for both rank-and-file officers and command staff and audits of the department’s compliance with previous settlement agreements, as well as a study of the agency’s less-lethal munitions and their use.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, said the independent report reflected some of the same concerns officers voiced months ago: under-staffing, a lack of a strong command structure, no clear mission.
“The level of violence, looting, and arson that overwhelmed portions of Los Angeles would have been difficult to predict, but once it was clear that elements within the peaceful protests were intent on destruction, then our members should have been provided the necessary support and resources to address the violence and keep them safe,” the board of directors said in a statement.