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Inadequate Training, Ignoring The Law: Report Sharply Critical Of LAPD’s Handling of George Floyd Protests

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The LAPD, regarded as one of the nation’s best police departments, was ill-prepared and in disarray during the early intense days of summer protests over the killing of George Floyd, leading to the improper use of force against peaceful protesters and the unlawful detention of thousands of demonstrators, according to an independent report commissioned by the city council and released today.

The report found significant deficiencies in seven areas, including command and control, preparedness and training, and the use of less lethal tools. For example, inadequate training led to officers improperly using 40-millimeter hard foam projectiles against crowds of moving people, according to the report. It said most officers had received only two hours of training four years ago.

With regard to command and control, the report noted that members of command staff "did not always know who was in charge, which led to a chaos of command."

There were times when "command staff officers arrived on the scene of a protest and issued orders without coordination with the incident commander," it said, adding:

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"[m]ultiple command staff officers gave orders, sometimes conflicting, regarding the same protest."

The report said the department was not adequately prepared to handle situations in which "small groups of disrupters" throwing objects at police mixed in with larger crowds of peaceful protesters.

In one particularly critical finding, the report found the LAPD ignored the law when it detained thousands of people for mere infractions. An infraction “only requires the arrestee to provide proof of identification and sign a promise to appear, in order to be released,” it said. “It does not authorize the transportation of the person to another site or prolonged detention of the person.”

The department also had no plans for taking care of the thousands of people it arrested:

“As a result, those arrested were detained at the scene of the arrests for hours, handcuffed on the pavement, detained in buses, and taken to remote locations, without water or the use of bathroom facilities.”

The report noted that both officers and protesters in close quarters were also unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19.

The report said these problems are not new. The LAPD mishandled protests at the Democratic National Convention in 2000, in MacArthur Park in 2007, at the Occupy L.A. city hall camp in 2011, and during 2014 protests against the killing of Michael Brown in downtown L.A. “It is unfortunate that the same issues have arisen again and again, with the Department being unable or unwilling to rectify the problem,” it said.

The report makes 22 recommendations. One urges the Department to “research and adopt a variety of strategies and tactics that would minimize the extent to which protesters “‘transfer’ their grievances toward the police.”

In a statement, the LAPD said Chief Michel Moore "has taken responsibility for activities over the summer," and "we have also identified lessons learned." It said the department has subsequently provided crowd control training to nearly 4,200 officers, and command and control training to over 7,500 officers.

The Police Protective League, the union that represents the rank and file, issued a statement saying the report echoes what its members said in a survey after the summer protests: "we were understaffed, poorly equipped and ... there was neither a clear mission nor strong command presence while officers grew fatigued from working excessively long hours."

Two other reports on last summer’s protests are pending – one by the LAPD and another by the National Police Foundation, which was hired by the L.A. Police Commission. Meanwhile protestors have filed a class action lawsuit against the LAPD and city alleging widespread excessive force and illegal detentions.

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