The following statement by ACLU of Southern California staff attorney Peter Bibring is in response to the L.A. Police Department's investigation into excessive use of force at MacArthur Park on May 1. The results of the investigation were presented at a special meeting of the L.A. Police Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 9:
The Los Angeles Police Department's report on officers' actions against peaceful demonstrators at MacArthur Park on May 1 is a constructive step toward addressing the root causes of improper use of force on that day.
The Department identified and took responsibility for a set of clear failures in command and control, tactics, and training. Among its significant findings, the report noted that units within LAPD have developed their own use-of-force training, without central oversight over what is taught. The ACLU/SC hopes the new Incident Management and Training Bureau set up in response to the May 1 incident will improve and standardize training across the Department, so that what is promised in City Hall is practiced on the streets.
Today's report contained a startling finding: it revealed that officers and supervisors believed they were free to use their batons and rubber bullets if peaceful protesters failed to respond to dispersal orders quickly enough. Knowledge that this is wrong is basic use of force policy - it is the first thing an officer should learn and the last thing he or she should forget. It is policing 101.
The report's recommendations, though significant, do not adequately address the culture of excessive use of force in the Department. If the Department fails to respond to these systemic problems, then it has slept through another wake-up call. The Department cannot, once again, look past the conditions that are pushing officers to ignore their training and use force that they should know is inappropriate. Instead, the Commission must seize this opportunity to address those issues.
The Consent Decree adopted after the Rampart scandal implements significant reforms, and this Commission can voluntarily adopt some of its best practices, including heightened requirements on eligibility, supervision, and length of assignment for officers in the specialized Metro unit. Assignment rotation, a common practice in other departments, should also be implemented Department-wide, and would help reduce an insular culture within units, combat the Code of Silence, and limit pressure for officers to forget what they are told in training when they hit the streets. The events of May 1 shocked this city. Do not miss the moment for real reform.