Los Angles comes looking for help from Belfast

As we noted earlier this week, LAPD got into serious trouble after some of their officers lost control during an immigration rally in the city’s MacArthur Park. Now, it seems the LA Police Commission has called on the Police Ombudsman’s Office for guidance:From the Police Ombudsman’s Office:

The Los Angles Police Commission has contacted the Police Ombudsman’s Office following rioting in the city last week at a May Day rally by immigrants and workers rights’ groups, when police fired more that 250 AEPs. The rally, which included immigrants from the Hispanic community, ended when police in riot gear moved in after people began throwing bottles and rocks at them.

The riots and much of the police reaction to them were captured on television. Twenty-four people, including ten journalists covering the event, were injured. Police officers are seen attacking protestors and journalists. The Police Chief has acknowledged ‘inappropriate behaviour’ on the part of some of his officers. Community leaders in Los Angles have now called on the police to release copies of all documentation they hold in relation to the event in order to help prevent a ‘cover-up.’

The LAPD Commission, the civilian body which oversees the police in the city, contacted the Police Ombudsman’s Senior Director of Investigations, Justin Felice:

“They had seen a presentation I had given about rioting in the Whiterock area of Belfast in 2005 and the issues it raised for policing and quickly realised that there were similarities, particularly given the large number of batons they fired ,” he said.

Mr Felice said one of the main concerns the Police Commission has is whether its investigation will stand up to the scrutiny of the diverse community in the city:

“At a general level, I emphasised that not only should their investigation be independent but that it should be seen to be independent. I explained that as far as is possible, they must engage properly with the community and with the media. The community must be in no doubt that the investigation will be a search for truth and that its findings will be made public. We are now in discussion about some of the investigation strategies we have employed in Northern Ireland in similar situations,” he said.

The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O’Loan, has said she is happy that her officers advise the LAPD Police Commission:

“I am pleased that the police complaints system we have developed here in Northern Ireland has such an international reputation that people are looking to us,” she said.

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  • Interesting, LA Chief Bratton is quite a student of reforming police practices, dating back to his days in Boston and New York. What he has taken on in LA (he has been there over four years now) required a change in the police culture equal to the transformation of the RUC into the PSNI. We are talking a decades-long, Moses-like strategy (i.e.,years in the desert until the older generation and its legacy dies off…).

    His reaction to this latest episode — which I think is reflected in the efforts of the Commission to reach out to NI — bodes well for his continuation in the post (he is up for five year renewal). Typically when a “police riot” takes place in LA or Chicago or elsewhere, the tendency is to “circle the wagons” around HQ, blame the people on-the-line as a “bad apples”, and the chief goes into defensive posture on behalf of his top level personnel. In this case Bratton made some heads roll at the top and is taking more culture-changing actions….

    Good for him, and great compliment to NI folks that Bratton and company reached out….