Tuesday, June 25

Students question police’s use of force


Students question police’s use of force

LAPD defends Monday’s crowd control methods, says hard tactics
were necessary

By Phillip Carter

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

One day after the victory celebration and melee in Westwood,
many Bruins questioned the tactics of the Los Angeles Police Dept.
in quelling the celebration.

Several students who were hit by police batons or rubber bullets
criticized the LAPD for its use of force, saying that it did more
to ignite conflict than stop it.

"When the game ended, we (the crowd) were just a bunch of people
celebrating," said Andres Soto, a second-year sociology student.
"But the police showed up and provoked a lot of students into
becoming violent. Their uniforms changed our mood."

In an interview yesterday, LAPD officials confirmed 15 official
arrests for charges including drunken behavior and assault on
police officers. More than 20 persons were treated at the UCLA
Medical Center Emergency Room for minor injuries, and seven LAPD
officers also sustained injuries on Monday night.

Many students maintained the majority of Bruins simply wanted to
celebrate peacefully. Ironically, this went hand-in-hand with one
LAPD officer’s evaluation, who said only a very small group of
rabble rousers forced police to shut the party down.

"Ninty-five percent of these people are here to have a good
time, but it’s the five percent who are causing problems," said
Commander Tim McBride, spokesman for the LAPD. "Even worse is that
five percent is hiding behind the good kids, so we can’t get to
them."

But despite the small number of troublemakers, McBride said the
police had to respond with force to keep things under control.

McBride defended the LAPD officers who used force at the scene,
saying the reports he heard placed them in the path of a
10,000-student onslaught. Under those circumstances, the use of
rubber bullets and batons is acceptable, he said.

"We had a very large crowd with a lot of people who were
intoxicated," he said. "The officers who used those (non-lethal)
weapons were in fear for their life because there was a crowd
converging on them ­ they were actually in fear."

Some students said it was the police who converged on the
revellers.

"We were down at one of the frat houses," said Brady Matoian, a
first-year undeclared student. "We started coming out into the
street … all of a sudden, all these cops came running from all
different directions. They started shooting. Things were getting
out of hand."

In retrospect, McBride surmised, it was possible to have
controlled the situation with less force.

Many Bruins agreed, saying that the LAPD’s force helped incite
students into becoming more angry.

"To make an overwhelming show of force like that intimidates
people and causes them to respond against the police," said Ken
Hudes, an architectural graduate student. "If you have this row of
police pushing at you, you’re going to be a little upset."

Again, McBride defended the actions as necessary to prevent
Monday’s championship party from escalating into something
worse.

"We responded very quickly and quite well to the incident
Monday," he said. "This was not a riot ­ we prevented it from
becoming a dangerous situation."

It is no accident that Monday night’s LAPD response to the
celebration in Westwood is being compared to the 1992 Los Angeles
riots. McBride and other police officials recognized the uprising
as leaving a lasting impression on the way police responded to
future public disturbances.

"We were heavily criticized after the riots for not responding
quickly and appropriately. We redevised some of our plans."

He added that Monday’s situation at Gayley and Weyburn could be
likened to the one in 1992 at Florence and Normandie, the
flashpoint for the Los Angeles riots. This time, the LAPD made a
strong show of force to prevent the Westwood block-party from
spreading.

"If we let (Monday’s) activity go, we could’ve had some severe
situations and a lot of people hurt," McBride said. "It’s too bad
we didn’t have more uniformed officers in Westwood earlier, but we
didn’t, and you can’t always anticipate things before they
happen."

The head of UCLA’s campus police agreed with McBride, saying the
riots proved to police that early forceful responses are good.

"The LAPD took a lot of heat in 1992 because they didn’t respond
and didn’t overreact ­ it’s a no win situation," said
university police Chief Clarence Chapman. "At Normandie and
Florence, there wasn’t an immediate police response, and you see
what happened ­ the city burned."

However, before officers arrived, the scene was far from
riotous, some students said.

"I don’t think it was that bad of a situation to begin with, but
then again, you never really know what could have happened,"
Matoian said.

"For the most part, the crowd was very calm, but they needed to
do their jobs because things were getting a little out of
hand,"said Alicia Vaz, a second-year political science major who
was celebrating with her friends on the corner of Gayley and
Weyburn. "The tear gas wasn’t necessary."

UCLA students often interact with both LAPD officers and
university police officers, and Monday was no exception. UCLA’s
Chapman said his main goal that evening was to keep the campus
safe, and assist in the village as needed.

During Monday’s melee, UCPD officers stayed on campus for the
most part, leaving Westwood’s security to the larger force that the
LAPD had. Throughout the night, the UCPD remained in this role of
securing the campus.

In Pauley Pavilion at 5 p.m. today, UCLA plans to hold its
victory ceremony, lifting an 11th NCAA championship banner to the
arena’s roof. McBride said his department had plans in effect to
prevent a reoccurrence of Monday.

"We’re doing some planning, and some stepped-up enforcement
based on what occurred Monday night ­ we’re hoping for a more
visible presence."

With reports from Nancy Hsu

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