LA cops in trouble over handling of riots…

Policing formed an important part of the conference in LA last week: the same week that an immigration rally in MacArthur Park was forcibly broken up by the police reportedly, resulting in the injury of 10 protesters and journalists. The LA Chief of Police today reassigned the two senior officers in charge of the operation, for making tactical errors. It seems they breached several of their own protocols, some of which were established after the bitter wake of the Rodney King riots of 1991:

…investigators found major flaws in how the order was carried out. For one thing, the helicopter appeared to be hovering above the intersection of 7th and Alvarado streets at a relatively high altitude, the sources said. It was two blocks from the park, making it difficult for some in the crowd to hear the order, they said.

LAPD officials say commanders are told that crowd clearance orders should be given from the ground whenever possible — because helicopters can drown out the sounds and can confuse people on the ground. The LAPD had at least one sound truck that could have been used for such an order next to the park, the sources said. But for some reason, they said, the truck was not used.

The Metro officers then moved in a “V” formation from the southeast corner of the park. There too, errors reportedly occurred. LAPD sources said the preliminary investigation found that supervisors were too far away from the officers’ “skirmish line” and lost control of the operation, with some officers wandering off on their own.

The LAPD have had several residual problems to contend with in comparison with the PSNI.

One, they only cover a small part of LA itself. They have to co-ordinate with the County Sheriff’s department, and number of other police forces that cover the greater Los Angles area.

Two, sheer area they have to cover means they rely on car based policing, not beat cops like New York: they also have lower numbers per head of population than NYC. The connection between the population and its police force is weak, even in comparison with Northern Ireland.

Three, they don’t have riots very often, so familiarity with procedure and crowd behaviour is relatively weak. Whereas the PSNI are well versed in what are often highly ritualised affairs inn Belfast and Derry. And there are not the same established back channels between communities and cops.