NPF will conduct this review from a variety of perspectives, including:
NPF will review LAPD materials and data, including:
NPF will review open source materials, including:
NPF will compare this response with promising practices, national standards, and international perspectives. Where applicable, NPF will be offering recommendations for areas of improvement in LAPD policy, planning, practice, training, tactics, command and control, staffing, and resources to better align the department with national best and promising practices.
NPF provided its final report A Crisis of Trust: A National Police Foundation Report to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners on the Los Angeles Police Department Response to First Amendment Assemblies and Protests Occurring May 27 – June 7, 2020 to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners in April 2021.
The findings and recommendations from each chapter of the report are also included below:
Finding 1.2: LAPD, like many police departments across the country had well-developed crowd management policies and practices that had proven successful during previous events. Those policies and practices were inadequate to handle the disparate groups, or to identify leaders amongst the protesters and address the level of violence.
Finding 1.3: Although it aligned with LAPD’s use of force provisions and procedures, documentation of uses of force during protests and demonstrations—including the deployment of less lethal munitions—was inconsistent by LAPD members.
Finding 1.4: Some LAPD personnel had not been provided contemporary training on crowd management, mobile field force, supervision, de-escalation, or the use of less-lethal instruments prior to the First Amendment assemblies and demonstrations from May 27 through June 7, 2020. Many of the LAPD training bulletins, courses, and directives related to crowd management and control were outdated. For example, the Mobile Field Force Training Bulletin was last updated in August 2006; the Use of Force – Tactics Directive on Crowd Management, Intervention, and Control was last updated in June 2011; the Use of Force – Tactics Directive on Tactical De-Escalation Techniques was last updated in October 2016; the Crowd Management and Control for Management was last updated in June 2007; and, the similar course for patrol was last updated in November 2012.
Finding 1.5: During the initial days of the protest, the number of disparate groups, the pace at which the protests accelerated, and the level of violence precluded the highly trained and experienced LAPD bike unit from successfully completing its mission. As the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests continued, the bike units were used to facilitate organized movements and rolling traffic stops.
Finding 1.6: The National Guard was mobilized, responded to the City, and were used to protect critical infrastructure and major intersections and thoroughfares. The presence of the National Guard freed LAPD personnel for assignments related to crowd management and control.
Finding 1.7: While LAPD has clear policies around use of force, crowd management, and other relevant pieces of responding to First Amendment assemblies and protests, they do not have one policy directing response specifically to large-scale, fluid, city-wide civil unrest that turns violent or contains violence.
Finding 2.1: The nature of the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests that occurred in Los Angeles between May 27 and June 7, 2020 were ones that neither LAPD, nor other jurisdictions across the nation, have previously experienced nor expected. While LAPD has years of experience with responding to large First Amendment assemblies, mass demonstrations, and civil disturbances in the past—some of which have involved violence and destruction—the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests occurred during a unique and unprecedented time in the nation. Local and national political tensions, frustrations and uncertainty caused by COVID-19, and the continued national narrative decrying police, contributed to a visceral response by many demonstrators locally and nationwide—including some intent on violence.
Particularly in LA, the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests were unique in that multiple assemblies occurred at the same time in locations across the city (locations not previously impacted by civil disturbances). They involved both spontaneous and planned events, demonstrators used both social media and messaging applications and were planned and coordinated. Demonstrators used more advanced logistics and tactics to counteract known police response strategies, and they required more police and city resources than protests in the past. The simultaneous needs for specialized personnel and resources across the City to address these more contemporary tactics caused confusion and strained an LAPD system that was accustomed to responding to First Amendment assemblies and protests that occur at a single time and location. In some cases, people intent on causing violence and destruction took advantage of the spanned geographic space and time SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests to wreak havoc.
Finding 2.2: The City of Los Angeles lacked a well-coordinated city-wide political, policy, communications, and law enforcement response mission to the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests that occurred between May 27 and June 7, 2020. The City of Los Angeles’ Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated and staffed prior to May 27, 2020, to coordinate the City’s COVID-19 response. The EOC was under-utilized for decision-making and strategy implementation in response to the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests.
Finding 2.3: Communication within LAPD—particularly in the first few days—was inconsistent between the Chief, his command staff, bureau commanders and field supervisors, and line officers. This created significant challenges regarding: (a) identifying a cogent operating philosophy; (b) determining operations during individual shifts, including when shifts started and ended; and, (c) establishing coordination and consistency between shifts. Senior level command staff and first-line supervisors made similar observations that there was confusion regarding who the Incident Commander was at times, which command post was responsible for final decisions, and what the overall LAPD strategy and mission was. This impacted every component of the LAPD response to the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests.
Finding 2.4: The issuing and cancellation of Tactical Alerts contributed to confusion and frustration amongst supervisors and officers.
Finding 2.5: LAPD did not effectively leverage intelligence and information city-wide—including publicly-available social media—that may have enhanced situational awareness of officers and their ability to rapidly assess multiple venues and deploy resources. LAPD did not fully leverage and communicate throughout the department open sources of intelligence and social media to account for the size, evolution, and adaptability of the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests. While the LAPD Special Events Permit Unit (SEPU), received permit requests for some of the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests, many more spontaneous demonstrations did not allow for the development of Event Action Plans (EAPs) or Incident Command System (ICS) plans. While many LAPD commands gathered intelligence on significant First Amendment assemblies and protests—including possibly disruptive groups—it was not compiled, deconflicted, or leveraged across the LAPD to strategically deploy resources.
Finding 2.6: LAPD should develop, implement, and review MOUs with the LASD and other law enforcement agencies to support and clearly define roles, responsibilities, and protocols to First Amendment assemblies and protests.
Finding 3.1: Although a virtual JIC was established, the review process impacted the ability of LAPD to post timely messages to its social media accounts.
Finding 3.2: The LAPD decision to not fully leverage social media to share information and respond to false accusations allowed demonstrators to control the narrative and overwhelm LAPD on the information front.
Finding 4.1: For more than 50 years, LAPD has endeavored to assist its personnel through Behavioral Science Services and aligned groups. In many ways, LAPD should be recognized for its innovative programs and leadership in the law enforcement profession regarding physical and mental wellness.
Finding 4.2: The research is clear that law enforcement personnel are exposed to significant traumatic events during the course of their careers. This exposure increases the likelihood of negative physical and mental health impacts that extend beyond an officer’s law enforcement career.
Finding 4.3: LAPD, elected officials and the LA community should recognize that research indicates that crowd management and other critical incidents have a significant negative impact on law enforcement personnel, their significant others, and children. This not only impacts officers’ ability to positively engage with the community, a cornerstone of community policing, but also contributes to the cycle of community trauma.
Finding 4.4: COVID-19, the deaths of nine members of the Department, deaths and serious illness among loved ones, and the fear of infecting family members placed untold stress on the LAPD, and exacerbated the stress and trauma associated with crowd management during the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests.
Finding 4.5: Officer morale has been described almost universally as ‘at an all-time low’. In addition to being the “target” of the protests, frustration with LAPD leadership and inconsistent messaging, and statements and decisions made by elected officials during and after the protests have been perceived as a lack of support for the department. There were significant resignations and retirements in 2020 and early 2021, with some of the individuals citing the combination of the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests, the COVID-19 pandemic, and anti-police rhetoric as their reasons.
In May 2015, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015) observed: “The wellness and safety of law enforcement officers is critical not only to themselves, their colleagues, and their agencies but also to public safety. An officer whose capabilities, judgement, and behaviors are adversely affected by poor physical or psychological health not only may be of little use to the community he or she serves but also may be a danger to the community and to other officers.”
“Hurt people can hurt people.”
As the City of Los Angeles, elected officials, and the LAPD work to reimagine policing, strengthen the Department’s community policing programs, and repair fractured community relations, there must be collective action and a concerted effort to address trauma in the Department and the community it serves.
Finding 5.1: LAPD has a history of professional policing, positive engagement, and strong relationships with business owners and Business Improvement District (BID) organizations, faith- and community-based institutions and organizations, and the Los Angeles community, including activists. They were able to leverage those relationships during responses to the SAFE LA First Amendment assemblies and protests.
Finding 5.2: Despite ongoing efforts to improve relationships, the history of LAPD is also punctuated with tensions between the community and the department (as well as narratives highlighting tensions between various communities and the police around the nation). These tensions and narratives continue to inform perceptions of the police in Los Angeles.
If you have questions pertaining to this project, please contact:
Director of Local Programs Director, Center for Mass Violence Response Studies
National Police Foundation National Police Foundation