L.A. police plan prescribed faster action in Lakers riot

Officials defend decision to have officers stand back

June 25, 2000|By LOS ANGLES DAILY NEWS

LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles police failed to move swiftly when violence erupted after the Lakers won the NBA title, despite their own confidential plan calling for an immediate show of overwhelming force if there was trouble.

The confidential LAPD plan, dated June 5 and obtained Friday by the Los Angeles Daily News, noted that there was a high potential for violence and that lawlessness should be dealt with quickly to avoid escalation.

"The early moments of the civil disorder are critical," according to the department's Lakers Victory Operations Plan 2000. "The disorder should be contained to the smallest possible geographical area and participants isolated from the public."

Instead, officers held back while the mob - ostensibly celebrating the team's first championship in 12 years - menaced fans walking or driving away from Staples Center, vandalized and looted area businesses and set several vehicles ablaze, including two vacant police cruisers.

Police officials declined to comment specifically on the plan, but defended their overall handling of the incident.

Rank-and-file officers criticized the department for failing to adhere to the plan, saying that supervisors ordered them to wait before making arrests at the Staples Center, even though they wanted to move in as the mob became more violent and began to spread.

"The plan said, `Move in quickly.' The orders said, `Stand back and wait,'" said Ted Hunt, president of the Police Protective League, the officers' union. "It's incredibly frustrating and embarrassing to officers that are handcuffed by their management. With crowd control you take swift and appropriate action. You don't step back and wait and see. They already tried that and it failed eight years ago."

Police spokesman Cmdr. David Kalish said that after the crowd got out of control, about 300 extra officers had to be called in from around the city to back up the 300 assigned to the Staples Center area. He said it took "some time" deploy the officers.

"It was thought that would be a sufficient number of personnel," Kalish said. "That's something we'll look at. Through the game there were absolutely no problems."

He said the department didn't want be heavy-handed with people celebrating, and didn't want to throw officers into a situation where they were outnumbered.

Mayor Richard Riordan's office said the police did "a fine job," but had not seen the Lakers Victory Operations Plan and would not question Chief Bernard C. Parks about why it wasn't followed.

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