LAPD in Massive Show of Force for a World Audience

Times Staff Writer

Pope John Paul II's visit offered Los Angeles police the chance to shine before a world audience, and they took full advantage of it, putting on a show of force reminiscent of the effort that helped keep peace during the 1984 Olympics.

An average of one Los Angeles Police Department officer was stationed every 50 feet along the Pope's 7.2-mile parade route. Officers on motorcycles were the pontiff's vanguard and rear guard. Police helicopters provided top cover.

Authorities even borrowed three doorless tour buses from Universal Studios to ensure the Pope's safety.

The trams transported about 80 helmeted officers from the Police Department's Metropolitan Division who trailed a few limousines behind the Popemobile and "could have gotten out . . . in hurry if they had needed to" during a riot or other emergency, explained Cmdr. William Booth, a police spokesman.

Measures Worked

If the police presence seemed excessive--1,900 officers, more than one-quarter of the total Police Department, were assigned to protect the Pope--it apparently worked.

Authorities reported no substantive threats, few disturbances and only two arrests relating directly to the pontiff's motorcade, which many authorities feared could be the most dangerous aspect of the Pope's stay.

One arrest involved a pilot accused of violating a 2,500-foot minimum altitude restriction temporarily imposed within a two-mile diameter of the Pope's parade route.

Federal Aviation Administration authorities said the airman, identified as Grant M. Tucker, flew a leased Cessna 172 at an altitude of 1,700 feet while carrying an announcer who was broadcasting freeway traffic advisories for radio station KFWB, said Elly Brekke, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.

Police helicopters followed the Cessna to Van Nuys Airport, where Tucker was taken into custody about 12:30 p.m. and booked at the Van Nuys station jail on suspicion of recklessly operating an aircraft. His two passengers, whom authorities identified as electrical technician Dan Porter and announcer Scott Green, were questioned and released.

Better View

Officers in Koreatown, meanwhile, arrested a Los Angeles woman identified as Terri Rae Amunda after she allegedly shoved her way past another woman to gain a better view of the pontiff as his motorcade approached the intersection of 18th Street and Western Avenue. A fight among the women and others broke out, and Amunda was taken into custody on suspicion of disturbing the peace.

She was later released on her own recognizance, according to Sgt. Sterling Gordon of the Wilshire Division station.

The ages and home addresses of Amunda and Tucker were not released.

In some areas of the city, officers reported that crime dropped dramatically, if temporarily, after the Pope landed.

The relative quiet seemed an endorsement of police administrators' earlier assurances that community service would not suffer despite the number of officers assigned to protect the Pope. All officers began working 12-hour shifts, and many detectives put on uniforms to temporarily replace patrol officers assigned to Pope duty.

Nonetheless, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman in San Francisco, Nancy Shelby, said the bank closed four of its downtown Los Angeles branches Tuesday after police officials "said they couldn't give us protection" because of the manpower needed to protect the Pope.

Jitters Abounded

Police spokesman Lt. Dan Cooke said he assured Wells Fargo's chief of security Monday that there would be adequate protection. Moreover, Cooke added, "who in their right mind would hold up a bank with so much police around?" Despite the abundance of officers on the streets, pre-Pope jitters abounded Tuesday morning.

The police bomb squad was called out eight times to investigate possible tampering with barrels used to anchor crowd barriers along the parade route. In each case, however, the bomb squad found nothing, Booth said.

Mail and newspaper boxes were removed around St. Vibiana's Cathedral; manhole covers were checked one last time and sealed with bright yellow tape--apparent precautions against planted bombs.

By 4:30 a.m., more than 1,500 of the officers assigned to the parade route assembled at Dodger Stadium for last-minute instructions by Police Chief Daryl F. Gates. It was the largest roll call in department history.

While Los Angeles officers assumed a dominant role before the cameras, federal agents, particularly the U.S. Secret Service, which protects visiting dignitaries, seemed satisfied to be behind them.

Richard T. Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI's 500-agent Los Angeles office, would not say how many agents had been assigned to the task but noted that none had been called in from out of town, as was the case during the Olympics.

Watching the Pope's parade from a special command post at FBI headquarters in Westwood, Bretzing offered high praise for the Police Department's massive show of force.

"You couldn't help but be impressed," he said.

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