Police Stayed Away During Civil Unrest, Panel Is Told : Hearings: Residents speaking before Webster Commission describe incidents they say show non-involvement in riots and in everyday life.


Hollywood residents criticized what they called a Los Angeles Police Department style of non-involvement during a public meeting Tuesday night of a special commission investigating police performance during the riots.

Several residents recounted personal experiences--during the riots and in everyday life--in which they said the police chose to not get involved.

Bob Anderson described how he and two other civilians scattered a crowd of 20 youths looting a souvenir store on Hollywood Boulevard with little trouble until another youth in a car opened fire.

Anderson said he later learned that seven Los Angeles police officers had been nearby and that some of them had watched.

"Those officers declined to be involved," he said. "If you ask me what did and didn't work, the cops didn't work during the riots."

Douglas Carlton of a group called Keep Old Los Angeles, said the Police Department's Hollywood Division has long been disconnected from residents. They just "jack up kids and homeless people," he said, but do nothing about brazen drug dealers.

"We have no local police," he said. "They're an army from somewhere else and don't care."

Pat Wong of the Chinatown Service Center offered another example of what she characterized as police callousness, telling about an Asian-American who was found in a riot area shot to death in his truck.

The truck, she said, was returned to the victim's family with the bullets still in it. "No evidence had been taken," she said, adding that no suspects had been found.

Several of the 60 or so people who attended Tuesday's meeting at Le Conte Junior High School said the city does not have enough police and contended that most of those who serve as officers are hard-working and deserving of respect.

They noted that the police are "workers" and blamed the city's political leadership for the lack of effective police response.

"When it comes to the Big Orange," said John Walsh of the Yucca Argyle Neighborhood Watch Group, "the L. A. politicians are the pits."

Eugene Hernandez, who identified himself as a former social worker on Skid Row, recalled asking police for help in a child abuse case. The police refused, he said. Hernandez said the police had a higher priority--arresting demonstrators at a downtown hotel.

The public meeting was the sixth in a series of seven scheduled by the so-called Webster Commission at schools around the city.

Like the others, Tuesday's gathering was sparsely attended.

"We are somewhat disappointed at the attendance," said Karen Randall, a lawyer and commission volunteer who is coordinating the public meetings.

Hollywood was hard hit by two nights of rioting, with dozens of stores looted--including the Frederick's of Hollywood flagship store--and some were burned.

The commission, which is expected to issue its report late next month, is named after William H. Webster, former director of the CIA and FBI. In the aftermath of the worst U.S. civil unrest in this century, the city's Police Commission appointed him as its special adviser to study the response of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Hubert Williams, former chief of the Newark, N. J., Police Department and head of the Police Foundation, a think tank on law enforcement issues, is the commission's deputy special adviser.

Webster did not attend Tuesday's meeting because of what commission staff described as a prior commitment in Washington. He is expected to attend the last meeting at Hollenbeck Junior High School at 2510 E. 6th Street at 7 p.m. on Sept. 22.

Webster and Williams have assembled a staff of 22 volunteer lawyers, who have conducted more than 350 interviews of government officials and police, and overseen a telephone survey of 1,000 Los Angeles residents.

Most of those polled attributed the Police Department's slow response to the riots to a lack of leadership and poor planning, although they sympathized with the department's lack of resources.

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