Report: LAPD brass to blame for May Day incident

By Richard Winton
The Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES The May Day MacArthur Park melee, in which LAPD officers clashed with protesters and journalists, occurred because of a series of errors by police commanders, according to a long-awaited report released this morning.

Officials said 26 officers are under investigation and could face discipline for excessive use of force during the incident.

The report, prepared by top officials of the Los Angeles Police Department, highlighted numerous missteps by commanders and officers before and during the confrontation:

* Deputy Chief Caylor "Lee" Carter "underestimated the size and significance" of the rally, which took place at the end of an immigration protest. When an LAPD captain suggested additional planning for the rally before the march, he was "verbally reprimanded" by Carter, the report said.

* Commanders did not take advantage of the more than 450 officers available to handle the crowds at the park, relying instead on a smaller group of elite officers who easily became overwhelmed.

* Officers appeared to use more force on journalists and protesters than LAPD policies or the law allow, the report said. "It appeared that some of the officers and supervisors in MacArthur Park believed that, contrary to department policy, baton strikes could be used to compel a person to disperse, even if they were merely standing in front of the officers, failing to respond to direction," the report said.

* There was confusion among officers about who was in charge, with some officers saying there was tension between Carter and two other commanding officers. "As a result, subordinate officers witnessed conflicting direction and obvious tension between the three command officers." Subordinates in the field made numerous requests over the radio "that went unacknowledged and unanswered," the report said.

Such were the problems in communication, the report said, that Police Chief William J. Bratton, who had left the office to attend an event at Universal Studios, "learned of the problems at MacArthur Park when the mayor called him from Central America."

The clash injured 42 protesters, reporters and police and is considered a black eye for the LAPD. TV footage showed officers wielding batons and firing rubber bullets at reporters covering the story.

Bratton has been highly criticized for the way the incident was handled by officers.

A preliminary report this summer faulted two commanders: Carter and Cmdr. Louis Gray. The LAPD said it was Gray, who was not at the scene, who gave the order to use force.

Carter, who was captured on film near the melee, went along with the decision. Carter retired shortly after being informed that Bratton was demoting him for his role in the incident. Gray was removed from his field command and assigned to administrative work.

In addition, Bratton ordered that officers be retrained in crowd-control tactics. He also created a crowd-control bureau and bought new technology to aid in crowd management.

The report is available online at www.lapd.org.

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

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