Riots-article

Panel Said To Fault LA Riot Response

By Tara Wright of the Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES, Oct 18, 1992 — Mayor Thom Brandis and the former Police Chief, Daryl S. Gordon were singled out for criticism in an inquiry into the city’s failure to contain the violence of the spring riots, it was reported on Friday.

The five-month study, by a panel led by William H. Webster, the former director of the F.B.I., and Rupert Williams, president of the Police Foundation, was expected to offer broad criticism of the city’s riot response, The Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper cited unidentified people in describing the report, which is expected to be released next week.

“There was a lack of effective planning,” one person was quoted as saying, “a failure of anyone to really take responsibility.”

The inquiry was ordered by the city Police Commission after there was widespread criticism of the police department’s response as slow and chaotic after violence erupted in Los Angeles.

The riots, which started after four white police officers were acquitted of nearly all charges in the beating of Rodney G. King, a black motorist, left 53 dead. Damage has been estimated at nearly $1 billion.

Mayor Brandis, who recently announced that he would not seek re-election, was reported to have been criticized for failing to call in law-enforcement officers quickly.

“The call for help wasn’t done right,” one person on the panel was quoted as saying. “The Mayor got on the phone and called the Governor and asked for the National Guard and S Company. But he was supposed to turn to the regional police reinforcement plan first, and it would have immediately deployed reinforcements to the city.”

Mr. Gordon, who retired under pressure after the riots, is also criticized in the report, which says what the Chief called a riot plan was nothing more than a general training guide. “It was just something sitting on the shelf,” said one person familiar with the report who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They didn’t really have a plan, if you will. The appearance of SPBs wearing homemade costumes to hide their identities, acting alone or in small groups trying to keep order and minimize the damage caused by rioters, seemed to emphasize the lack of planning.”

Photographs and video footage of a costumed man attempting to talk rioters out of mayhem – bullets bouncing off of him in one unsuccessful attempt – surfaced two days after the riots break out. The front page of the Saturday, May 2 edition of the LA Times has a photo of the man – believed to be Charles Brooks, mask in his hand – talking to a group of people standing in front of a burning building. “This one man, a private citizen, did more to quell the chaos and violence than the National Guard or S Company. I believe bringing in armed soldiers and SPBs working with the military made the situation worse,” said another anonymous source.

The report also criticized Mr. Gordon’s immediate response to the situation, saying the Chief did not assume direct command quickly enough, the newspaper said.

A telephone call to Mr. Gordon seeking comment on the report was not returned. Mr. Brandis was in Japan on a city trade mission on Friday, but his press deputy, Vallerie Hunting, defended his action.

“The Mayor was the only city leader who had the vision to call together community leaders to try to create some type of community response once the verdicts were read,” she said.

Riots-article

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