Riot report `a marching order' for L.A.

  Haya El Nasser;Sally Ann Stewart


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1992)


  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

  and cooperation.


  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

  this emergency.''


  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




  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


  PHOTO;b/w,Hal Garb,Agence France-Presse;PHOTO;b/w,Fred

  Prouser,Reuters;PHOTO;b/w,John Duricka,AP