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LAPD Chief Michel Moore’s comments on looters create political firestorm

LAPD Chief Michel Moore addresses protesters through a bullhorn over the weekend in the Fairfax district.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As he commands the Los Angeles Police Department’s response to mass protests over the killing of George Floyd, LAPD Chief Michel Moore is also facing a growing political storm over comments he made Monday night — but quickly retracted — about looters.

The chief said looters across Southern California over the weekend were “capitalizing” on the death of Floyd.

“We didn’t have protests last night — we had criminal acts,” Moore said during a news conference with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday night. “We didn’t have people mourning the death of this man, George Floyd — we had people capitalizing. His death is on their hands as much as it is those officers.”

Moore apologized minutes later, saying he “misspoke when I said his blood is on their hands” and that he regretted “that characterization.”

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“But I don’t regret, nor will I apologize, to those who are out there today committing violence, destroying lives and livelihoods and creating this destruction,” Moore said. “His memory deserves reform. His memory deserves a better Los Angeles, a better United States and a better world.”

On Tuesday, protesters’ chants rang out outside the LAPD’s glass headquarters: “Fire Michel Moore! Fire Michel Moore!”

And: “Hey, hey, ho, ho! Michel Moore has got to go!”

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Garcetti on Tuesday night defended Moore, saying he was glad the chief had apologized.

“I’m glad he quickly corrected it, and I’m glad that he further apologized, as well,” Garcetti said. “I want to be very, very clear about that. If I believed for a moment that the chief believed that in his heart, he would no longer be our chief of police. I can’t say that any stronger.”

Moore’s comments were also the focus of much public comments during a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting Tuesday.

Jocelyn Tucker said she appreciated the apology, but the chief’s words were telling.

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“If that was your knee-jerk reaction, you’re not in the right job,” she said.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell also responded to his comments in a statement.

“I want you to know that we have every right to be outraged and that our voices deserve to be heard and not hijacked by outside agitators nor by a police chief who infers that our actions can be compared to the murders we have witnessed and experienced,” she wrote in a statement. “These type of distractions want to turn this discussion away from the main point — which is ending structural racism.”

Moore was quick to condemn the killing of Floyd by Minneapolis police, and in the early days of the protests, gave demonstrators a wide berth.

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Moore told the Police Commission that when he saw the video of police kneeling on Floyd’s neck, he and others at the LAPD “were greatly disturbed by it and troubled by the images and we sought to communicate clearly — those images we witnessed along with the rest of America, they were horrible. It was disgusting and without justification.”

With Los Angeles under nightly curfews and looting breaking out in neighborhoods across the city and county, arrests have surged into the thousands.

Moore said the LAPD originally hoped to work with peaceful protesters. But while many demonstrators were not violent, looting began Saturday night and changed the dynamics.

“When violence escalates, including assaults on officers, arson, widespread looting in the Fairfax area Saturday, and we see officers sustain injuries, the loss of property, the department needs to resort to a stronger message,” he said. “We increased our deployment. We began blocking protesters, communicating with protests. We began to convey to them the need for peace. ... But we could not allow the safety of our officers or the public to be jeopardized.”

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Moore said he is continuing to evaluate the department and strategies. As to allegations of officer misconduct, he said, “I want to assure you we will investigate each complaint, and I promise to hold accountable anyone who violates our policy or commits other misconduct.”

Many speakers also said they had witnessed LAPD officers shooting rubber bullets at protesters and blamed the officers for escalating tensions.

“I’m terrified of the LAPD. You have shown your true colors,” David Spencer said.

On Tuesday, Garcetti said he was going to limit the use of rubber bullets.

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“I think that we’ve seen less of any of those tactics and I hope that we can see the most minimal if not zero of those tactics,” he said.

The mayor mentioned that an officer suffered a fractured skull during protests over the weekend and that officers needed to make peaceful protesting possible.

“Those tactics will sometimes be out there, but it is my direction to minimize those and if we can to not use those [tactics] at all especially if there’s peaceful protesters.”


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