"As to delay, sufficient manpower is a prerequisite for controlling potentially dangerous crowds; the speed with which it arrives may well determine whether the situation can be controlled. In the summer of 1967, we believe that delay in mobilizing help permitted several incidents to develop into dangerous disorders, in the end requiring far more personnel and creating increased hazards to life and property." -- Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968.
The public safety establishments in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington had every reason to be prepared for trouble in Los Angeles if the police officers charged with beating Rodney King were acquitted. They were not prepared. As a result -- well, everyone can see the result: more than three dozen dead, more than 1,200 injured, some 3,000 arrested and property damage rising toward a half of a billion dollars.
That is a short-term damage report. Long term, the costs to a city of a bloody, destructive race riot can be even greater. The riots here and elsewhere in 1967 and 1968 precipitated a loss of business investment, of middle-class residents and of confidence that condemned Baltimore and other cities to a generation of decline. It could happen again. Every city and state with the potential for a destructive riot should be planning for quashing it at its very beginning.