Riot report `a marching order' for L.A.
Haya El Nasser;Sally Ann Stewart
LOS ANGELES - The Webster Commission's scathing report on the April 29
riots focuses on this city's failure to quell the violence - but its findings are an
alarm for all big cities.
The special panel appointed to investigate Los Angeles' handling of the deadliest
riots in U.S. history blamed every level of city government for lack of planning
It also outlined a long list of riot-prevention strategies. Among them: Beef up
foot patrols and improve the LAPD's relations with minorities.
``What we have seen gives us cause for grave concern,'' said the report, released
Wednesday. ``Neither the city nor the LAPD had a real plan for what to do in
Former FBI and CIA director William Webster, head of the panel named by the
civilian Police Commission, predicts the report ``will enter the body of law
enforcement literature and will be used by cities around the country.''
Already, Dallas Police Chief William Rathburn is calling for a national riot
police squad - similar to forces in many countries, including France.
``A part-time National Guard is not the solution,'' said Rathburn, former Los
Angeles deputy police chief. ``It's time we rethink our prohibition on the use of
regular military in an urban emergency.''
Rathburn believes riots could ignite in any big city. But nowhere is the threat
more potent than in the City of Angels.
Two controversial trials inch toward the courtroom: Four black defendants
accused of beating white trucker Reginald Denny at the riot's flashpoint; and the
federal civil rights trial of the four white officers acquitted of using excessive
force against King - a verdict that sparked the riots.
Former Police Commission President Melanie Lomax says the report's
conclusions that the city has no riot emergency plan is ``a marching order of the
most critical dimension.''
Los Angeles is too vulnerable to ignore the warnings, she says. That's why, as
the report was released, city leaders scrambled to push their plans.
Police Chief Willie Williams is reaching out to neighboring cities' police and fire
departments and community leaders to draft a regional riot response plan. He
also plans to move up to 150 desk officers out of police headquarters and into the
streets by year's end.
``We will be better prepared,'' Williams promises. ``Whatever comes up,
everybody will have input.''
Mayor Tom Bradley, criticized for talking about the potential for rioting but
doing little to prevent it, ordered administrators to start drafting an emergency
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky quickly put forward his own solutions: Ask the
courts to give the city 24 hours' notice before a verdict is read in a controversial
trial; imposing a citywide curfew the same day.
Yaroslavsky wants voters to pass a property tax hike that would pay for 1,000
more police on the streets, and a bond issue for a new 911 system.
But the city could be a long way from unity. Bradley steps down next year.
Several council members are eyeing his job.
``It's an election year,'' says Connie Rice, of the NAACP Legal Defense and
Educational Fund. ``It's very tough to get the right thinking.''
Contributing: Jonathan T. Lovitt
WHAT THE REPORT SAID
Left only 4% of officers on the street; did not have anti-riot plan; let officers go
home at the end of their shifts despite angry crowds in the streets; failed to
exercise control of situation.
Failed to repair a ``complete rupture'' of relationship with Chief Daryl Gates;
failed to ensure police department had a plan for civil unrest; failed to seek help
from neighboring police departments.
CUTLINE:UP IN FLAMES: National Guard members watch as a business burns
in south central Los Angeles April 30. Rioting from April 29 to May 4 left 53
people dead, and up to $1 billion in damage. CUTLINE:POLICE CHIEF
DARYL GATES CUTLINE:MAYOR TOM BRADLEY
PHOTO;b/w,Hal Garb,Agence France-Presse;PHOTO;b/w,Fred