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Essential California: LAPD’s handling of summer protests sharply criticized in report

A line of LAPD officers downtown at night
LAPD officers line up on Grand Avenue on May 28, 2020, as dozens of protesters, many with the Black Lives Matter movement, react to the death of George Floyd.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, March 12, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Los Angeles was still under a nightly curfew when members of the L.A. City Council first called for an investigation into the tactics employed by the Los Angeles Police Department during the unrest that erupted after the death of George Floyd.

By the end of June, the council had voted unanimously to commission a report examining the LAPD’s crowd control tactics during the protests that dominated the city in late May and early June. Eight months later, that City Council-commissioned report is here — and it outlines many of the same failings that have been loudly voiced by activists and protesters since the summer.

The LAPD seriously mishandled its response to the summer protests, according to the independent report. The department’s failures were attributed to poor planning, inadequate training and a disregard for rules on mass arrests and crowd control that were established after past failures to manage protests.

[Read the full story: “Highly critical report faults LAPD for mishandling summer George Floyd unrest” in the Los Angeles Times]

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As my colleagues Kevin Rector and Emily Alpert Reyes report, the analysis was conducted by a panel of former Police Department commanders led by Gerald Chaleff, an attorney and former member of the LAPD and the L.A. Police Commission who has helped review the department’s handling of past unrest.

[Previously: “Under lax protocol, LAPD responded to protests with aggressive force” in the Los Angeles Times on June 11]

The independent report found a “chaos of command” during the unrest where even the LAPD’s own command staff didn’t always know who was in charge. Secret “shadow teams” of undercover officers were sent into crowds without sufficient means of relaying their intelligence to commanders, according to the report. The report also found that officers were sent into the streets with hard-foam projectile weapons that they weren’t adequately trained to use, and police commanders without up-to-date training in crowd control tactics were put in charge of volatile scenes.

Kevin Rector, who covers the LAPD for The Times, has reported on multiple individuals who were badly wounded after being shot with 40-millimeter hard-foam projectiles at close range despite apparently representing little or no threat to officers.

[Read a summary of some of the key points in the report]

The LAPD said it would not comment on specific criticisms in the report before completing its own review of the summer events, which is pending, but that it has already made some changes based on lessons learned.

Melina Abdullah, co-founder of BLM-L.A., told my colleagues that the report addressed some of the wrongs that were perpetrated against protesters, but “what it doesn’t do is really critique the notion that LAPD should be putting down righteous protests in the first place.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

President Biden said restrictions on who can make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment will be lifted nationwide by May 1. The current limitations no longer will be needed because vaccine supply will be adequate to meet demand. All American adults should be able to get at least a first shot by the end of May, he added. Los Angeles Times

California releases details on how millions can get COVID-19 vaccinations beginning Monday: Four days before an estimated 4.4 million Californians with disabilities or underlying health conditions become eligible for the vaccine, the California Public Health Department released guidance on the verification process. Notably, the state is not requiring that eligible disabled or sick individuals present documentation of their condition. Los Angeles Times

L.A. County to reopen indoor restaurants, gyms, museums and movie theaters as early as Monday: The reopenings will be triggered as soon as California reaches its goal of administering 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to residents in its most disadvantaged areas — which appears likely to happen Friday. If the vaccination threshold is met Friday, the new L.A. County public health officer order could go into effect as early as Monday morning. Los Angeles Times

The San Francisco school board unanimously approved a reopening plan on Thursday. Under the plan, San Francisco public schools are expected to begin in-person learning for preschoolers through fifth-graders, special education students and vulnerable older groups starting April 12. Older students will probably not return before the end of the school year on June 2, according to the Chronicle report. San Francisco Chronicle

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

Meet the L.A. Phil musicians who started a music series on their Pasadena porch. They gave 25 weekly concerts from May through November. Los Angeles Times

[See also: “Lizzo’s musician. A ‘Tenet’ artist. 11 classical musicians’ stories of pandemic loss and hope” in the Los Angeles Times]

The Grammys will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday. Here’s a preview from our music writers. Los Angeles Times

Plus, Oscar nominations arrive Monday. Awards columnist Glenn Whipp has complete predictions for all 23 categories, if you’re the betting sort. Los Angeles Times

Former Harvard-Westlake English teacher Caitlin Flanagan on the indefensibility of elite private schools: “Elite schools breed entitlement, entrench inequality — and then pretend to be engines of social change.” The Atlantic

Support our journalism

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Supporters of Gov. Gavin Newsom tacitly acknowledged this week that the Democratic governor is likely to face a special election seeking his removal from office, as Newsom’s critics said they have collected more than 2 million signatures on petitions to force a vote this year. Registrars of voters in California’s 58 counties have until late April to finish reviewing the petitions. Los Angeles Times

Rural Northern California finds its moment during the Newsom recall campaign: California’s northern counties have often felt overlooked in the famously liberal Golden State. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

A 75-year-old Asian man who was assaulted and robbed in Oakland died Thursday from his injuries. The assault comes amid a broader rash of violence against the Bay Area’s Asian American community. Murder charges have been filed against a suspect in the assault. San Francisco Chronicle

L.A. is home to heavy industry — and more federal deals not to prosecute polluters than anywhere else. Critics of these deals — known as deferred prosecution or nonprosecution agreements — say they give corporations a pass. Los Angeles Times

A building wrapped in scaffolding, as seen through a fence
The Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon closed in 2015 as part of a deal with federal prosecutors not to file criminal charges against the company or its executives. The company later went bankrupt and so did not pay the full cost of cleaning up the pollution that blanketed predominantly working-class Latino neighborhoods.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

“Which blessing should we say when we get the COVID vaccine?” An East Bay rabbi muses on the correct prayer to mark an undeniably “spiritual moment.” (I had planned to recite the shehecheyanu when I finally get the jab, but Rabbi Stein has me reconsidering.) The Jewish News of Northern California

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Lost year: How high school athletes coped during the COVID-19 pandemic. Los Angeles Times

With the return of high school sports in Southern California, The Times is launching Prep Rally, a newsletter written by the dean of Southland prep coverage, Eric Sondheimer. Sign up for it here.

For creators, everything is for sale: “A rash of new start-ups are making it easier for digital creators to monetize every aspect of their life — down to what they eat, who they hang out with and who they respond to on TikTok.” New York Times

[See also: “Marketers are underpaying Black influencers while pushing Black Lives Matter” in Bloomberg]

Berkeley institution Moe’s Books has voted to unionize, citing “many incidents” of unsafe COVID-19 protocols in the store. SFGATE

A poem to start your Friday: “Off the Blossom Trail” by Andre Yang. Poets.org

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: briefly sunny before the bleak clouds settle in, 57. San Diego: morning rain, 57. San Francisco: sunny, 61. San Jose: sunny, 64. Fresno: partly sunny, 61. Sacramento: sunny, 68.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Anita Nardulli Seeley:

As a child in the 1940s, I had the privilege of being a student at Dorris Place Elementary School in Los Angeles. In 1946, when I was 9, my father passed away after a brief illness, leaving my mother with three children to raise. I was very gifted musically as identified by the school’s music teacher, Mrs. Hendricks. Knowing how difficult it would have been for my mother to pay for lessons of any kind, Miss Adams, the school’s principal, gave permission for my fourth-grade teacher to pay for flute lessons for the following two years! That teacher’s name was Mrs. Robinson. I will never forget her!

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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