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On March 3, 1991, Rodney King led a group of LAPD police officers on a high-speed car chase in San Fernando Valley. Once cornered, King and his friends were pulled over and ordered to move out of the car. King was subsequently beaten by the LAPD officers. King suffered 56 baton strokes, was kicked in the head and body and was stunned by a stun gun. An amateur photographer caught everything on video and it was subsequently shown around the world exposing the extent of force and violence law enforcement officers may employ against an unarmed individual.
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Charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault under color of authority were filed against the police officers. On April 29, 1992, the police officers involved were acquitted by the state court. This triggered one of the worst riots in American History. After the riot fifty-four people were killed, two thousand three hundred eighty-three were injured and thirteen thousand two hundred twelve were arrested, property damages were estimated to be at seven hundred Million ($700 M).
I believe the most crucial time in every hostile situation e.g. riots, hostage-taking scenarios, is its inception. It is at this point where the mob assesses the whole situation. If the response of the police force toward the incident is not only weak but is also delayed, these people get emboldened and they start to get out of control. They not only increase in number as other people take advantage of the confusion and anarchy but emotions also start to run high. It is because of this reason that the police officers should start to take control of the situation at its very beginning. This is what the Los Angeles Police Force failed to do. The LAPD definitely lacked a concrete plan of action to avert the impending disorder that may happen. It was very disturbing that the LAPD failed to anticipate the sequence of events may probably trigger the riot. It could be recalled that even before the beating of Rodney King was shown on television, social unrest in Los Angeles was noticeable. There was an extremely high unemployment rate, the citizens were hit by a nation-wide recession, and there was a widespread perception about the LAPD being engaged in racial profiling and excessive force. The whole city was like a time bomb waiting to explode. The Rodney King incident was only the last straw for the people of Los Angeles to handle.
Further, the LAPD should have noticed that the situation was so fragile that the venue of the trial was transferred to Ventura County. This is an indication that the issue was serious and that it was highly probable that disorder and lawlessness may follow. At this point, the LAPD should have marched to the street to take control or they should have sought assistance from the federal government for additional troops. This they failed to do. It was only when the riots started that they sought assistance from California National Guard troops and the United States Marines.
The LAPD also failed to immediately respond to the small number of the crowd that was gathered at the streets of Los Angeles. Lt. Michael Moulin and his troops were dispatched to control a growing crowd at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. Ill-prepared and outnumbered they retreated instead of taking control of the situation. Other troops were also called to respond to the lawlessness in other parts of the city but they were likewise withdrawn, apparently, for their own safety.
This triggered the other protesters started to join in the affray. As they increase in number and as the mob became angrier, the problems of the Los Angeles police force were compounded. The lack of preparedness and the seeming lack of concern for the gravity of the situation by the Los Angeles Police Force were manifested by Daryl Gates. The Christopher Commission, which was earlier formed to conduct an investigation on the Rodney King incident, earlier called for his resignation after finding that there were widespread racism and sexism in the LAPD. On the first day of the riot, Gates left the police headquarters to attend a political fund-raiser.
Indeed, the LAPD failed to respond to the disorder and lawlessness that on the first day of the riot, the mob was able to impose their will on the police. They burned cars, looted business establishments, burned buildings, and shot at the police. It was only on the second day that the LAPD began to take control of the situation when the California National Guard troops and United States Marines arrived. Things began to return back to normal on the fourth day upon the arrival of Abrams tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers.
I believe that the riot was not an unexpected occurrence. If the LAPD only had the foresight and the vision to notice that there have been social unrest in the city, countless lives would not have been lost and millions of dollars worth of property would not have been destroyed. Had the police immediately shown their force by placing them strategically on the streets of Los Angeles this could not have happened. The lack of knowledge of the Los Angeles Police in crisis control resulted in this devastation.
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