Running Head: The 1992 Los Angeles Riots
The 1992 Los Angeles Riots
Perspective of a Response Concerning the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Jeff Adams, Eric Ford, Martin Dickey
Tiffin University, Ohio
ENF 660 - Responding to National Catastrophic Events
Final Project Paper
In late April 1992, Los Angeles erupted into four days of some of the worst rioting this country had ever seen. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and components of the United States Military were eventually able to restore order, but not before millions of dollars in property damage had occurred, and nearly one-hundred people had been killed. A watershed event, many people, from all spectrums of society, criticized law enforcement’s response to the rioting. Much has been written about Los Angeles Police Department’s response and the use of the military in support of the response. Little public documentation though, has addressed the role of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, a major component of the response. This analysis will examine that response from several different perspectives, studying the management and operational realities, as well as lesson learned, areas of further study, and recommendations.
The 1992 Los Angeles Riots
Perspective of a Response Concerning the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
“The EOC - Where uncomfortable officials meet in unaccustomed surroundings to play unfamiliar roles making unpopular decisions based on inadequate information in much too little time.” A sign on the wall of Firestone’s Sub-EOC, day three, 1992 L.A. Riots (Heal, 2002). Conditions leading up to Deployment of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Shortly after midnight on March 3, 1991, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers Melaine Singer and her partner/husband Timothy Singer saw Rodney King, who was on parole for robbery, and his passenger Bryant Allen speeding on the freeway (Los Angeles Times, 1992). Refusing to stop for the officers, who had their red lights and siren activated, the officers, along with additional officers from the Los Angeles police Department (LAPD), chased them for about 8 miles at high speeds, sometimes in excess of 100 miles per hour (Cannon, 1999). After running several red lights King finally stopped his vehicle. King refused to obey any commands to lie down from the officers and a taser was used on him, which had no effect. Kings behavior led the officers to believe that he was on PCP and when the officers tackled him and attempt to handcuff him, he resisted arrest. Four officers, three white, and one Mexican-American, used their batons to subdue King, an African-American, into submitting to his arrest.
The majority of this incident was caught on video, except for about the first few minutes. After reviewing the videotape, The Los Angeles District Attorney charged the four officers with excessive force. Because of the media coverage and the continued play of the video tape, the court trail was moved from Los Angeles to Simi Valley, a predominately white community. The majority of the African-American community knew the four officers were guilty and expected a verdict of guilty.
Late in the afternoon on April 29, 1992, the mostly all white jury acquitted the four officers who were accused of excessive force and beating Rodney King. The first indication of unrest came from the steps of the court house where the crowd became angry with each passing minute and they shouted, “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” as the officers exited from the building. There was a vocal outcry of racism and injustice toward the African-Americans on live television from the Africa-Americans leadership, such as Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley who stated that the verdict in the King trial "will never blind us to what we saw on that videotape."
Within about 90 minutes of the verdict, crowds had gathered on the street corners in the African-American communities. The crowds became unruly when at 3:43 p.m., the police received a call that someone had thrown a brick at a passing motorist at the corner of Florence Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard (Baldassare 1994). A few blocks away, at Florence and Normandie Avenue, more reports were coming in that African-Americans were throwing bottles and rocks and passing cars. It was at this intersection that we all watched, live from a news copter, as the white trucker, Reginald Denny, was pulled from his 18-wheeler and beaten almost to death. On our televisions, we watched as a young male black stretches his arm back, as if to pitch a ball, with a chunk of concrete in his hand and he throws it into the side of Denny’s head. As Denny lies unconscious in the pavement, another male black raises a fire extinguisher high above his head and forcefully throws the extinguisher down upon Denny’s head. The crowds become more brazen, as the LAPD is nowhere to be seen. The violent acts continue as non African-American pedestrians and motorist are attacked. Some in the crowds begin to break store windows and taking items that they can take away.
All of the action was filmed and shown live through out Los Angeles. The crowds continued to grow larger and the looting quickly expanded. By night fall, rioters were setting cars on fire to block the intersections and breaking store front windows with bricks so that the could throw Molotov cocktails inside them to start fires. The Los Angeles Fire Department tries to respond, but they are attacked and shot at, preventing their response. Again the LAPD is not present to provide protection for the LAFD or medical personnel. As we watched this on live television, the scene changes to US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who also is African-American and represents parts of Los Angeles, where she is speaking and defending the violent criminal actions of the rioters, saying that their actions were spontaneous to a lot of injustice and that the anger was righteous for the injustice done and she was just as angry as the rioters were. She led the chant of the mobs by yelling, “No Justice, no peace” (Wikipedia, n.d.).
As the riots erupted and quickly gained momentum, LAPD Chief Daryl Gates was attending a political fundraiser and decided to not declare a tactical alert to stop the violence, believing that the officers currently on duty could handle the situation. City officials and community leaders had expressed concerns of the possibility of citywide violence if the four officers were acquitted. Chief Gates stated that he had set aside a portion of his budget for overtime and had a plan to stop any civil unrest should it happen. When the civil disturbance started, the sizes of the crowds were much larger than the number of the officers and the rioters started attacking the officers. Fearing for the safety of the officers, LAPD supervision ordered the officers out of the area.
The jury verdict was the match that may have ignited the riots, but the root cause of the riots, also called the LA Revolution, the Rebellion, were derived from tensions arising from the changing demographics of South Los Angeles. The racial makeup of historically black neighborhoods in Los Angeles changed as Hispanics took up residency and Koreans expanded their business into the South Central area. These different racial groups competed for the available unskilled low paying jobs and customers for their small businesses. Economic competition between races in the labor force and in small enterprise provoked more racial animosity, such as in the 1980s when businesses terminated most of their black-dominated janitorial staffs and replaced them with Latino immigrants earning half the wages that were paid to their unionized black predecessors. This economic disparity kept poverty within the African-American communities of South Central Los Angeles. The friction between Korean-owned businesses and their black customers was equally divisive, as the black customers felt they were being cheated by overpricing and disrespect within the Korean owned businesses.
To compound the frustration of the African-American communities, there was the long standing belief that the law enforcement officers harassed young black males by racial profiling and selectively used excessive force against African-Americans. The anger in the black community was so ardent that it was a unifying factor that brought a truce between the warring “Bloods” and “Crips” black gangs so that collectively they would attack law enforcement together. One such member of the “Crips” was Todd Eskew, who now calls himself Najee Ali, does not remember how many windows he broke or fires he and his friends started. He states, “I was so angry I wanted to continue. But I stopped after two days out of sheer, physical exhaustion” (Christian, 2002).
Beside the verdict, racial and economic factors, the roll of the media should also be considered as a factor. The beating of Rodney King was caught on video tape and within hours of the beating, the video was broadcast on all major television stations. (Berry, 1999) The image of police brutality was mentally inscribed on everyone’s mind as the video was played and replayed throughout the weeks and months following the incident. As everyone watched this video over and over again and listened to the television commentators, we were all assured that the officers involved would clearly and justly be found guilty of excessive force by a fair and impartial jury. Thus the media became the witness, judge and jury of our conscience expectations of guilt. The television was the main and quickest means of communication for the results of the trial.
When the verdict was announced on live television, that the officers were acquitted, the television became the source that fueled the fires of anger and chaos that erupted on the streets of Los Angeles, primarily beginning in South Central Los Angeles. The media, primarily television, felt it their duty and responsibility to report all the action that was taking place, first at Florence and Normandi Avenues and later throughout the many communities Los Angeles County. Their live reporting of the events unfolding became intelligence for the masses who came out of their homes to join the melee on the streets. What began as a race-based anger riot, quickly turned into frenzy of capitalistic minded individuals who began looting anything they could get their hands on. The LAPD was overwhelmed and was not able to control the mass crowd of rioters and looters. While sitting in jail, after being caught and arrested for looting, many looters would discuss the items that they had wanted to hit next. They would dream and fantasize about what they were going to loot during the next riot and they would keep a mental note of the stores to target.
What ever the reasons, each rioter and looter had their own reasons for their actions. What is clear to everyone who was a victim, or watched on television, LAPD was no where in the picture in the beginning, and they were clearly on their own without protection.
The Response Plan: Operation Monarch
Operation Monarch, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s (LASD) plan, to react and respond to rioting was based, not the 1965 Watt’s Riots, but rather on the annual plan for handing shooters on New Year’s Eve (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006). Overall, it was a good operational plan, both in concept and application. Considering it was held in secrecy and distributed only 90 minutes before its usage, most of the plan survived contact with the conditions of the rioting. No copy of the plan could currently be located for verification.
What went right in Operation Monarch is overshadowed or just plain ignored in the public documentation. That public documentation incorrectly lumps the Los Angeles Police Department’s plan of non-confrontation with LASD’s plan based on full engagement. The County Emergency Operations Center, operated by LASD as regional Law Enforcement Officer, was activated and fully staffed. Sub-EOCs were activated as needed, based on patrol station coverage areas (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006).
Initially, LASD held the initiative, as most stations ramped-up immediately and dispersed groups of citizens as they found them. Often this only required a show of force; a simple buzz of the siren or deployment of several four-man cars (R. R. Daniels, personal communication, August 10, 2006). Arrests, in the early hours of the rioting were limited to felonies, and ultimately thousands of arrests were made (subsequently with a high conviction rate as well). Field booking teams from the Custody Division performed well in booking, arraigning, feeding, housing and transporting thousands of inmates over the five-day period (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006).
LASD personnel, both supervisors and deputies, performed far above their pay grade in dealing with situations they found themselves confronted with, and no known civil suits resulted from excessive force – unprecedented, based on the media hype and coverage, and the community attitude leading up to the verdicts (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006). The community support was impressive. Commander Heal, a Lieutenant at the time, in charge of the Firestone Station’s Sub-EOC, stated: “We had the admiration and respect of the community, something that was never reported by the media. I never ate a cold meal the entire time of the riots. Churches opened their kitchens and kept coffee pots on all night long. Shakey’s Pizza brought truck loads (no exaggeration!) of pizzas and Coke. People called in crimes in progress and we responded as best we could and arrested numerous thieves and felons. For WEEKS after the riots we kept stake-bed truck, pickup trucks and even semi-trucks for picking up stolen merchandise that was identified to us by informants. The day after the riot ended, they stood on the sidewalks and cheered us like a liberating army, brought their kids to meet us, had our pictures taken, sat in our radio cars, brought us cookies and coffee, right to our posts and even when we were just driving by.” (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006).
There were problems as well, as no plan survives contact unscathed. The plan was changed in the first 45 minutes when it became apparent that two of the restraints - no overtime and to avoid arrests - were unattainable (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006). Not all Sheriff’s stations deployed. The best known case was Carson Station, which surrendered its territory as the deputies were pulled back and staged, rather than being fully deployed. The reasons for this are somewhat nebulous. Non-deployment may be based on experiences from the Watts Riots, a scenario that unfolded over several days rather than a couple hours, resulting in a feeling during the 1992 L.A. riots that something bigger was coming riot-wise, and a Sub-EOC needed to store resources (deputies) in anticipation of the critical climax. There was also an opinion that once you assigned a “resource” you “lost” it (R. R. Daniels, personal communication, August 10, 2006).
An additional factor in the uneven response in LASD was based on the product of different command styles, patrol experience and training levels, all being executed at different locations (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006). If an emergency system has enough time it will mature, which tends to “even out” its management as people learn to work together. Unlike the Watts Riots, the 1992 L.A. riots were over quickly and there was little opportunity for that process to occur (R. R. Daniels, personal communication, August 16, 2006).
Compounding this issue was the lack of a working relationship between LAPD and LASD. Chief Gates and Sheriff Block had, at best, a lukewarm relationship and often displayed it in the public arena (Mendel, W. W., 1996, & Rosegrant, S. 2000). This attitude would be further displayed as additional police agencies attempted to provide resources. Often, the County EOC did not seem aware of what resources it had available or deployed, and it is indeterminate if this condition was based on communication, protocol, or competition issues.
The biggest impact, however, was the stations’ assets were overwhelmed early in the scenario. There were just not enough people to satisfy the plan or the operational necessities that arose. As Commander Heal put it, “Within a few minutes of taking command in the field I was simultaneously faced with multiple fires at widely scattered locations, the need to protect the firemen, the looting of a building containing numerous handguns and an attempt murder of one of my deputies coupled with the subsequent shooting … I realized that I had been overcome by events. While I had committed my forces in protecting the fire fighters fighting existing fires, arsonists were free to set other fires. Within a few hours, more fires had been set than could be put out and were burning unchecked.” (Heal, 1992).
Riot Management: A Deputy’s Point of View
It is fair to say that in many instances, there is a certain amount of reasonable warning to help prepare for and manage civil disturbances. Arguably, this was the case in the weeks and days leading up to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Although I believe this to be true, it is my opinion that major law enforcement agencies in the Los Angeles area did little to prepare for the riots. As a result, the response to, and management of the incident, was unorganized, chaotic, and woefully inefficient. It is important to note that my opinion is based largely on my personal experiences, and what I have been told by senior law enforcement Officials. Very few official law enforcement after action reports were written, and the ones that were, are closely guarded by the authoring agencies. Nonetheless, I have reached certain conclusions about how the 1992 Los Angeles riots were managed.
At the time of the riots, I was a young Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff assigned to Lancaster Station. I had almost three years experience in patrol, and I was working in this setting at the time of the videotaped arrest of Rodney King in March 1991. This event, which was the catalyst for the riots, marked a turning point in my young career.
Prior to Rodney King’s arrest, I had experienced very little belligerence and outright hatred on the streets. As the outcry regarding the mechanics of the arrest grew, tensions increased and belligerence and hate became the norm. In fact, it became somewhat of a joke around the station that everyone should make sure they have their riot helmets at the ready. Indeed, contacts with citizens, especially within the African American community, were becoming increasingly confrontational, and sometimes violent. Although this fact was very clear to everyone who had their “boots on the ground,” the impending breakdown in civil order seemed to be going unnoticed by our superior officers. Not once do I remember being briefed about riot contingencies, nor did I receive any riot training. It was almost like those responsible for disaster planning and management had their heads stuck in the sand.
The afternoon the verdicts were read and the first reports of trouble started to trickle in, I, along with approximately half the Lancaster Station field force, received an order to return to station. Upon arrival, we expected to be thoroughly briefed regarding the unfolding situation. We were not. We also expected to be given explicit deployment instructions. Instead, we were told by the Watch Commander to double up in patrol cars and follow him. With that, we started “down the hill” toward Los Angeles.
As we reached the interchange of the I5 and SR14 freeways, still not knowing exactly where we were headed, we followed the watch commander onto the N/B 14fwy, AWAY from Los Angeles. Stunned, we followed him as he led us into a nearby shopping center parking lot. It was there that we received our first “official” order. We were told we were being deployed to the Stevenson’s Ranch area of the Santa Clarita Valley to conduct high visibility patrol. This was obviously a politically motivated order, as Stevenson’s Ranch is an exclusive (mostly Caucasian) community located approximately 40 miles away from where the rioting and looting was taking place. We spent the next 5-6 hours patrolling Stevenson’s Ranch while parts of Los Angeles were literally burning to the ground. To this day, I have no idea who issued that ridiculous order.
By the next day, the riots were in full swing. Some semblance of crisis management had begun to take place (or so I thought) and I was placed on a squad that was to leave for Los Angeles around 6:00 PM. We were loaded onto a bus normally used for prisoner transportation, and we were driven to Carson Sheriff’s Station which had been set up as a regional command post. The first thing I noticed upon our arrival was how chaotic everything appeared. There were hundreds of patrol cars from different agencies parked in a nearby adjacent parking lot, and literally hundreds of sheriff’s deputies and police officers were just milling around. Our squad leader (Lieutenant) attempted to locate someone who could give us a mission, only to return a short time later extremely frustrated. The lieutenant explained that those running the command post were unorganized and did not have a mission for us. Realizing the stupidity of the situation, the lieutenant made a decision for us to strike out on our own. There was only one problem; we did not have any cars. Not to be outdone, the lieutenant “commandeered” ten patrol cars which were lined up on the road, and away we went.
For the next several hours, we drove around South Los Angeles looking for looters, arsonists, etc. Our primary method of obtaining strategic information was listening to news reports over a transistor radio. We received no direction and in fact, I’m not certain anyone knew we were out roaming around. Albeit chaotic and surreal, we managed to get through the evening unscathed. We eventually returned to Carson Station, parked the “borrowed patrol cars,” loaded onto the bus, and went home. On the third day, my fellow deputies and I were again loaded onto a bus and we drove to the Long Beach Civic center. We stayed there and did not deploy into the field. By now, elements of the California National Guard, and the United States Marine Corps had been deployed to help quell the rioting. It was the classic “hurry up and wait” scenario. By the fourth day, the rioting had subsided substantially and Lancaster Station deputies remained in the Antelope Valley.
The real lesson learned; emergency managers from all disciplines (fire, police, medical, etc...) must develop a comprehensive strategy in order to prepare and respond to the next major disaster. During its development, experiences from those who participated in previous disasters must be taken into account.
The Broader View: Lessons Learned, Looking to the Future
There are many lessons, both strategic and tactical, to be learned from incidences of the magnitude of the 1992 L.A. riots. This paper will only cover a three of the significant ones.
A Media Driven Event.
“We were being just ravaged by the media,” recalled one fire department battalion chief (Suburban, 1994). This was a 24/7 media event and everybody watching television saw and heard news coverage questioning events in light of the absence of cops at Florence and Normandy. How many hundred of times did we see Denny being beat-up in the street during those three days (Heal, 1992)? Although it was not a fact for areas covered by LASD, TV coverage that implied that all cops had surrendered the streets to the rioters. This media mantle was lost on LASD personnel, no doubt due to the event tempo they were dealing with, and coupled with a lack of deputies for plan implementation. Per Commander Heal: “We never even knew about Reginald Denny for the first day. While watching it on TV in the Sub-EOC, we became aware of how badly the image was being disseminated but thought that it would largely reflect on LAPD, not LASD, but we were dead wrong there” (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006). It is interesting to note that the Los Angles City Fire Department recognized this early on during the riots and provided an aggressive PIO program that changed their media exposure and media coverage overnight (Suburban, 1994). Neither LAPD nor LASD were to follow suit.
Two factors were significant to the increased media effect when compared to the 1965 Watts Riots. The Watts riots were confined to a relatively small area of about 60 square blocks and the riot built up over a multi-day period, whereas the 1992 L.A. riots were spread across hundreds of square miles in less than a day (Schnaubelt, 1997). The increased ability of the media to transmit instant communication cannot be understated. Lately, we have seen positive examples in the Armed Forces use of the media (imbedding) during the first Gulf War and negative effects of media’s reporting during hurricane Katrina with its implication of lawfulness and the resulting looting that took place (United, 2006).
This media mantle is a product of the changing effect and power the media has in its ability to provide instant communication to mass populations (Tierney, Lindell, and Perry, 2001). Unless confronted with an aggressive media campaign, the tenor of the media coverage will always draw ahead of events and become the precursor of those events.
The EOC: Confusion, Information, Delegation, Focus
The Sub-Emergency Operations Centers, located at patrol stations, were the cutting edge in the application of the Operation Monarch to halt the riots. They were the decision “nerve centers” and became noisy, confusing places as described by Commander Heal (then a Lt.) on Day 3, at Firestone Station’s Sub-EOC: “1830 — As dusk approaches, we use the station’s parking lot to brief all sworn personnel on arrest and booking procedures. Numbered flex-cuffs are issued and assignments given. The EOC is chaotic. Bleary eyed day shift personnel are giving last minute instructions to their reliefs (sic). Oncoming patrol sergeants are being briefed from status boards and maps and military liaison personnel are talking on their radios. The radio monitor is on with at least two frequencies blaring. The booking cage located just outside is even worse and the babel (sic) of twenty or more inmates talking at once raises the ambient noise level higher than a downtown diner at lunch time.” (Heal, 1992).
Information pours into a Sub-EOC at an overwhelming rate, often inundating its command staff (Heal, 1992). This information is a product of our enhanced, integrated communication system via phones, radios, computer systems and person-to-person conversations (Tierney, et. al, 2001). It is not the lack of information, but rather the overload of information that becomes the issue early on in the riots (Heal, 1992) and is common to many instances of EOC usage (Tierney, et. al, 2001). This fevered pitch of incoming information requires the EOC staff to filter it for significant information as it enters the EOC, commonly as pieces of the larger jig-saw puzzle of what is going on.
Dependant to both the confusion and overload of information is the ability to make timely decisions, as this is the ultimate reason for the EOC. The ability to be able to conduct business in the EOC must not be hampered by any activity, and it must be staffed accordingly. Distractions must be removed, as well as nonessential personnel, and no business should have to be conducted at a louder than a normal tone of voice (Heal, 1992). Several assumptions must be planned for by the EOC staff as they are realities in any large-scale operation – those realities cannot be eliminated, but can be reduced (Heal, 1992);
Initially, the tempo of events will overwhelm available resources and span of control.
It is difficult to obtain a complete perspective on the magnitude of the disturbance as the situation is confusing, chaotic and susceptible to instant change.
The adage, “What can go wrong, will go wrong” will be your mantra. Called “friction,” it is the force that makes the normally “easy” to become so difficult.
A good plan implemented now is better than a perfect plan implemented later. Be flexible, willing to change, build on success and do not reinforce failure.
Decision-making must be pushed to the lowest possible level, relieving the Incident Commander of a tremendous burden of having to make every decision. This also increases the response agility and instills confidence in the abilities of the individual unit commanders.
Assignments need to be given in the form of what is needed to be accomplished, where the objective is clearly and precisely identified. It might prove easier to describe what needs to be done rather than how to do it.
Many objectives can be accomplished without a direct confrontation. Appearance is everything, as the objective is to win, not to fight.
And lastly, the principle of unity of command is essential as this assures that all efforts are focused on achieving a common goal.
For an effective EOC operation, especially one that is based on a media-driven incident such as the 1992 L.A. riots, information control, staffing, and delegation will increase its ability to handle the situation and stay focused on the common goals.
“Our entire field force is committed. Looters have overwhelmed our resources. Belligerent crowds are forming and defying uniform deputies. What we need is 250 personnel that can secure locations once cleared by uniform personnel. (National Guard, Custody Personnel, Recruits, Reserves). Present number of personnel will be insufficient for night shift.” – Day 2, memo from County EOC, 1992 L.A. Riots (Heal, 1992).
Collaboration is the key to handling any large-scale disturbance. As previously noted, bickering among key civilian leaders (Mendel, W., 1996) let to friction and slow deployment. LASD was also constricted in its internal approach of utilizing outside law enforcement personnel resources. This attitude can best be described as an institutional bias based on preconceived ideas about what kinds of resources are effective in disturbances. Tierney (2001), points out that it is common for law enforcement agencies to consider incidences of this type as just an extension of normal operations. The reality, though, is that the magnitude is so great that it overwhelms the available assets quickly and then it takes law enforcement a significant amount of time to regain the initiative.
Examples of non- collaboration abound in this operation. Just looking at the memo above demonstrates a certain blindness at the strategic level. LASD was quick to use the California Highway Patrol but the Los Angeles Marshal’s Department (LAMD) was basically un-deployed at this time. LAMD, a force of hundreds of County issued and equipped deputies were sitting in their courthouses since the afternoon of day one. Although not “patrol-trained,” they are perfectly suited for securing locations, providing protection for fire personnel and convoys, resupplying and providing for the general security needs found in a large disturbance. Unlike the National Guard, LAMD deputies have full police powers and further, the use of such assets would have released patrol-trained LASD personnel for deployment. This issue was further compounded in the staging of LASD personnel for extended periods without a unified means of determining deployment. In another case, San Diego PD sent 50 (+) officers who were subsequently sent home as no one told the EOC that they were staged and ready to go (C. Heal, personal communication, August 20, 2006). At the Sub-EOC level there are reports of usage of various agencies but they appear to be patrol-based agencies and their usage was uneven.
Unlike law enforcement, the Fire Department set plans in motion before the event concerning mutual aid, and implemented those plans quickly. Fire agencies from all over the State responded to L.A. County and were integrated into fire task forces. This response was greatly hampered by law enforcement’s inability to provide guards of the fire task forces. Admittedly, it was an unknown requirement because in normal conditions, firefighters routinely respond without police protection to emergency calls. These riots demonstrated clearly, though, that firefighters simply cannot function without police protection in the face of hostile crowds (Joint, 1994).
Collaboration is the key in any mutual aid event and is necessary for effective response. For law enforcement to maintain the initiative, the individual agencies must “think outside the box,” beyond their institutional bias, and match needs with personnel, regardless of preconceived expectations.
The Plans: Past and Current
Little information is available concerning any After Action Reports (AAR) done on Operation Monarch. Interviews were done concerning the events at the Sub-EOCs (C. Heal, personal communication, August 17, 2006 & R. R. Daniels, personal communication, August 10, 2006), but it appears that no official public report was ever done. Furthermore, it appears that no current plans have been released to the general membership concerning an event of this magnitude.
Of concern is the fact that lessons not learned will be repeated in similar future events. Donahue and Tuohy (2006), in their paper, Lessons We Don’t Learn: A Study of the Lessons of Disasters, Why We Repeat Them, and How We Can Learn Them, clearly points to a stepped process to institutionally formalize “lessons learned” into the fabric of law enforcement. Significant events are actually rare in their occurrence and must be planned for and trained for based on lessons learned. Such major events are so spread out by time that most of the first responders, be it line personnel or management, will have no prior, real-world experience to fall back on when the next event happens. Failure to institutionalize “lessons learned” will always put a department in a loop of “learn – fail – relearn” mode.
Another area that is unaddressed is what Operation Monarch planned for. Was it based on the worst-case scenario? Did it contemplate the effect the media would play? What was the scope of deployment and did it contemplate a county-wide resource deployment? How did the “unknowns”, such as fire engines requiring deputy guards, to be dealt with? A recommendation would be for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Depart to conduct an AAR to formalize any lessons learned before the memory of its events are lost due to retirement and ultimately time.
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