Published on Sunday, August 20, 2000 in the Independent / UK
LAPD Criticism For Heavy-Handed Anti-Protest Tactics
by Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
 
After Al Gore, perhaps nobody needed last week's Democratic convention to go smoothly more than the Los Angeles Police Department. With a reputation for brutality and mired by corruption scandals, the LAPD was not merely concerned to keep the peace; with Justice Department officials breathing down its neck, its independence was at stake.

The good news, after four days of chasing groups of protesters all over downtown Los Angeles, was that no crowd was allowed to run out of control, no property was damaged, and only 200 arrests were made.

The bad news was that the LAPD was caught on camera firing rubber bullets indiscriminately into a crowd of overwhelmingly peaceful concert-goers on Monday night. It is now being sued by civil rights groups for targeting television journalists at that gathering, presumably to prevent incriminating footage from being released. It also arrested two journalists during a bicycle protest two days later.

The paramilitary hardware in the city's streetskept trouble-makers at bay, but also raised old concerns that the LAPD is more interested in being a fighting force than defending the rights of citizens.

Both before and during the convention, the courts rapped the LAPD's knuckles three times for attempting to restrict the rights of protesters.

And now there is a new controversy about last week's use of undercover agents – a power removed from the LAPD for several years because it was suspected that its operatives incited violence that uniformed officers could then respond to.

The LAPD came out of the week almost ecstatic. "Morale is high right now, higher than it's been for some time,'' said Deputy Chief Martin Pomeroy.

But almost everyone else disagreed. Dan Tokaji, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said there was now a compelling case for putting the LAPD under the supervision of the Justice Department.

2000 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd.

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