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LAPD’s use of Jackie Robinson Stadium as field jail was inappropriate, report finds

A report released Thursday evaluating the LAPD’s handling of protests in 2020 found that the use of Jackie Robinson Stadium as a field jail was inappropriate. UCLA leases the stadium for its baseball team and allowed the LAPD to use the lot before it was turned into a field jail. (Anika Chakrabarti/Daily Bruin staff)

By Bernard Mendez

March 12, 2021 11:52 a.m.

The LAPD was unprepared to handle mass arrests, and its use of the UCLA-leased Jackie Robinson Stadium as a detention center during protests against racial inequality was inappropriate, a report released Thursday found.

The report, commissioned by the Los Angeles City Council to analyze the LAPD’s response to the mass protests in May and June, found that the LAPD was unprepared to handle a mass arrest scenario, LAPD staff working at field jails were not trained in field jail procedures and the choice of Jackie Robinson Stadium – which UCLA leases for its baseball team – as a field jail was inappropriate.

“The selection of the UCLA venue was problematic as the optics of using the Jackie Robinson Stadium, a stadium named after an iconic civil rights movement symbol, to process arrestees protesting police abuse of people of color was insensitive,” the report stated.

The LAPD set up the field jail at Jackie Robinson Stadium’s parking lot June 1 because of its proximity to the freeway, its size and because it was secure enough to prevent protesters from entering while arrestees were being processed. It began transporting arrestees to the site after making mass arrests in Downtown Los Angeles after protests turned violent, according to the report.

Several people arrested and transported to the stadium told the Daily Bruin they were held inside buses in cramped conditions without access to food, water, restrooms or adequate social distancing. Once released, people had no access to transportation to return home, one detainee said. The report backed each of these claims.

The report also faulted the slow set up of the field jail. The LAPD arrested thousands in the days before a field jail was set up, which overwhelmed the arrest processing system. The report offered a set of recommended changes – 22 in total – including suggestions to revise its emergency response system, create a bureau to oversee emergencies and give officers more training on field jail procedures.

The LA City Council commissioned the report in late June to analyze the LAPD’s crowd control tactics, use of force and enforcement of curfews during the protests. An independent committee of experts, including retired LAPD officers and public safety experts, conducted the report using dozens of Zoom interviews with LAPD officers, reviews of LAPD documents and body camera footage.

In total, the LAPD arrested 1,242 people June 1, the majority of whom were sent to Jackie Robinson Stadium, according to the report. The LAPD later moved the field jail to the San Fernando Valley on June 2 after UCLA community members complained that UCLA students were arrested and detained at the stadium, according to the report.

The LAPD said in a press release Thursday that it will review the report, but added that it is expecting additional reports on its handling of the protests and it would be premature to give “detailed comments” at this time. The press release also noted that the LAPD gave “intensive Crowd Management and Crowd Control training” to around 4,200 officers after the protests. An LAPD spokesperson declined to comment further.

[Related link: UCLA faculty criticize decision to let LAPD use Jackie Robinson Stadium]

The use of the stadium as a field jail – and UCLA’s role in its use – faced immediate backlash from the UCLA community. More than 300 UCLA faculty signed an open letter June 2 calling on UCLA to release a full account of the incident and to divest from LAPD. And some activists, not pleased with the administration’s response to the incident, held a gathering at the Jackie Robinson Stadium parking lot in November to protest the incident.

Chancellor Gene Block and three other administrators issued an apologetic statement June 3 that condemned the use of the stadium but admitted UCLA agreed to let the LAPD use the lot – UCLA is required to approve third-party uses of the stadium as part of its lease with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The statement added that UCLA was unaware the site would be used for processing arrests.

“The truth is that for many in our community, deeply anxious about police brutality and abuse of government power, that was deeply troubling,” the statement read. “We understand and respect that. We failed to recognize these challenges in an inclusive manner that heard marginalized voices.”

Ananya Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography and a member of the Divest/Invest UCLA Faculty Collective, said that although the report noted the use of Jackie Robinson Stadium was inappropriate, it didn’t bring up UCLA’s involvement in the incident.

Roy added that the report didn’t bring up a broader question of the way police responses are used against protests: The LAPD’s mass arrests are part of a pattern of criminalizing protests for racial justice and civil rights, particularly against protests for Black freedom, she said.

Roy said she thinks UCLA could do more to make amends with victims after the incident – UCLA has not reached out to many students and alumni who were detained, she said.

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Bernard Mendez | News editor
Mendez is the 2020-2021 News editor. He was previously a staff news reporter for the Science & Health beat and a developer for The Stack. He is also a third-year math student at UCLA.
Mendez is the 2020-2021 News editor. He was previously a staff news reporter for the Science & Health beat and a developer for The Stack. He is also a third-year math student at UCLA.
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