Bill Bratton Civil Liberties LAPD Police

May Day Melee Report – Part 2


Okay, so on Tuesday morning the LAPD—in the person of Chief Bill Bratton and Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell-
–gave the first bounce to the Police Commission in what will eventually be a fuller report on the May Day melee. They did it with an elaborate and lengthy Power Point that included police surveillance videos, the stuff that we’ve all seen on YouTube, plus TV news clips and some of the department’s radio broadcasts.

Both the cops-can-do-no-wrong crowd, and the unwavering LAPD haters
have, predictably, found things to criticize in the report (too big, too small, too hot, too cold, blamed the department too much, didn’t blame the department enough…yadda, yadda, yadda). But, for most part, what was said Tuesday morning seemed a good first stage in a reasonably honest attempt to sort things out.

While the union has focused on the need for additional training
(not a bad idea. their list of suggestions here), Bratton and McDonnell didn’t let the department off the hook quite so easily. The chief even took some stabs at some of the tricky-to-quantify culture issues that many of us cop-watchers have long been talking about [See my earlier rants here and here].

For instance…..


…..Bratton talked about Metro units as having an “isolated” culture,
and that they even had their own separate Christmas parties…..a fact that the Chief, rightly, considered to be a subtle but problematic sign.

McDonnell and Bratton both talked about the various police actions on May First that weren’t legal. They pointed, for instance, to the way the dispersal order was given—using a helicopter blasting an unintelligible message—and to the fact that the crowd was never instructed where they ought to go, which routes the police wanted them to take, and how much time they had to take them—all very basic tenets of LAPD crowd control.

Bratton also talked about an “chaotic breakdown” in leadership that day,
and how the command staff guy who gave the go-ahead to use the “non-lethal” weapons was blocks away from the action and that the Deputy Chief on scene gave zero orders or direction.

“At this point in time,” he said, “we can’t explain it, that you have a two-star chief that’s engaged in the middle of the activity and makes no effort to control it at all.”

There are a lot of things Bratton and McDonnell haven’t quite yanked apart and parsed-
–most obviously they have not really addressed the question as to why in the world the officers were using the batons and the nasty, little projectile-shooting firearms on people who could, in no way be construed as being dangerous or aggressive. They have not conclusively said that using the weapons in the manner we saw on video was decidedly against LAPD policy. But, I believe they will get there—mainly because a number of higher ups have already privately observed that the “bean bag” bullets and the batons were assuredly out of line.

, and the Daily News here. But two of the best and most interesting reports were both done by KPCC’s Frank Stolz. (Links here and here)

Among others, Stolz talked to Deputy Chief Charlie Beck (a good, smart guy, currently heading South Bureau) and LAPD sergeant, Sunil Dutta, (another good, smart guy). Both Beck and Dutta suggested that, after the cops came in contact with the bottle throwing agitators, some officers got on the radio and portrayed the threat as greater than it really was. And that a chain of overreactions likely followed.

Beck maintains it “made no sense” to clear a large park when a handful of people in one corner were throwing bottles at police. The veteran cop also notes that when bottles started flying, officers at the scene broadcast an “officer needs help call.” Few radio calls get your adrenaline flowing faster, says Sgt. Sunil Dutta.

Sunil Dutta: ‘Cause there is a code below that and that is “officer needs assistance.” And there is a code below that, “hey, I need an additional unit.'” So you’re talking about the most distressing thing you hear on the radio. And you rarely hear it.

In another of his broadcasts, Stolze snatched McDonnell
, just after the Assistant Chief finished his Power Point, and asked him why—adequate leadership or no adequate leadership—individual officers repeatedly whacked reporters with video cameras and shot non-lethal bullets at panicked immigrant parents.

McDonnell sighed unhappily. “I can’t explain it,” he said.

That answer won’t always be acceptable, of course. After the various reports conclude— the LAPD’s and others—we will need something a bit more informative.

But for now, it’s likely that the man who is overseeing the department’s examination of the May Day mess—smart, decent Irish cop McDonnell—-is telling us the best truth he’s got.


  • The report ignores any justification for the police action–and, there was some justification. It’s great to look over video tapes, think about it for a few weeks, and then make judgments and recommendations, which are politically influenced. It’s another thing to be standing there with a split second decision to be made as to whether or not the bottle throwers represent a serious threat to your life and to others and which could expand to the entire park. I can’t stand Monday Morning Quarterbacks.

  • If only the police had simple enforced the law
    If only the police had just given the order to round all of the demonstrators up for deportation processing instead of pelting them with plastic bullets and bashing the press with their batons. At least then, they would have been enforcing the law.

    No doubt, at least 25% of the crowd had been deported at least once, and another 25% have stolen identities or counterfeit ID’s, adding up to 50% of the crowd being felons.

    So here is your situation, you have 3000 felons out of a crowd of 6000, plus 100 rock/bottle throwing thugs assaulting the police committing new felonies. What should the police be doing about it?

    They should called for ICE backup, detained all demonstrators while designating special areas for the press to film the caring peaceful approach the police use in questioning all of the demonstrators at to their citizenship and identification along with the rock and bottle throwers.

    The end result would be one angry Mayor, less bruised press and 3000 less felons walking our streets.

  • Celeste, if you ran your posts by Pokey and me first, then you might save the time of publishing items that become moot once our logical explanations are made.

  • Woody….I’ll….um….take it under advisement and get back to you.

    By the way, FYI – the report talked a lot about the agitators, and broke everything down on a minute by minute basis.

    Also, the bottle throwers, by police count, numbered about 30-50, and were not in the park with the marchers, but outside it. One of the things that’s making command staff nuts, is that, aside from the later crowd whacking behavior and the disregard of established department crowd-disbursement protocol, the metro guys majorly screwed up from a tactical perspective because, instead of isolating the bottle throwers and arresting them, the cops drove them INTO the park, and thus lost almost all of ’em. After that, things went severely downhill. So, viewed purely in terms of tactical analysis, the thing was a disaster.

    About Monday morning quarterbacking, so the coach shouldn’t review the players performance after the game? I’m confused.

  • Monday morning quarterbacking is saying that you would have done something else only after you have seen what didn’t work. (Why didn’t they kick instead of going for two? Why didn’t they take a few minutes to count the bottles and rocks hitting them before reacting?)

    Do you actually think that the police on site could do a head count and come up with 30 or 50 bottle throwers? Why after weeks, the report can’t even decide if it’s 30 or 50. Anyway, I lose count and have to start over every time a bottle hits me in the head.

    Regarding reviews, coaches have the sense to know that players often have to act on instinct. They use reviews to coach rather than condemn and disassociate themselves from the team. If every play worked as drawn up, we would have football scores in the hundreds. Only thing, you don’t always know what the other team is going to do.

    However, most opponents play by the rules rather than biting in the pileups, although there are mistakes. (I tried to hit him in bounds, but was he out of bounds when I tackled him and got flagged?) But, you know, you can’t coach very well against mobs. You do the best you can.

    In any event and at some point, the mob needs to be flagged, too. I think the referees are favoring the team from Mexico.

  • Having many inside sources I leared this week that..
    1. Several press including one ot two with TV kep walking betwen the skirmish line causing disruption. they were warned not to do that and got wacked as the officers moved forward. their choice in my opinion.
    2. Many announcements were made including in spanish. Much of this is no LAPD videotape, but the top brass will never show it. Supress bt Bratton and Antonio I bet as it may tell more of the truth! Go figure.
    3. Metro officers stopped over ten times, giving everyone time to lawfully clear the park.

    So if 50 officers are moving slowly at you ,in riot gear, firing rubber and foam projectiles, if you were an honset citizen what would you do? Me, I would run unless I was the type to have a bandana covering my face.
    Like I said, when the smoke clears, few if any officers will be charged with wrongdoing.

    What I do wonder is where was the intell on the itiots with bandanas, and the surveillance on them??????? That is all in planning.

  • The police did the right thing and mild force is needed to disperse people who do not want to move or who throw bottles
    I imagine rubber bullet is a nice treatment compared to how Mexico treats for example Guatemalian illegal immigrants.

    What I do not understand is what was ICE doing? Illegal immigrants were right there, ICE could have brought a few buses and taken them back to Mexico since they are not happy about their American experience

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