Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Cops with riot experience warn: Be prepared




By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        O.J. Simpson. Rodney King. Los Angeles police have grappled with the fallout from jury decisions laden with racial overtones, just as Cincinnati prepared Monday for a grand jury indictment carrying with it the weight of 30 years of racial tension. Preparedness is everything, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said Monday of lessons learned after the riot that followed the 1992 acquittal of four white cops in the beating of Mr. King, who is black.

        “You have to respond rapidly and take control of the streets,” LAPD Sgt. John Pasquariello said.

        Cincinnati police were tight-lipped Monday about their preparation for the 6 p.m. Monday grand-jury announcement in the shooting death of Timothy Thomas by Officer Steve Roach.

        But Los Angeles's experience in the King and O.J. Simpson cases offers a glimpse of how major police departments and cities prepare for highly emotional indictments and verdicts.

        Even before the verdict in the King case was handed down, a videotape was broadcast throughout the police department in which the chief urged calm, maturity and professionalism among his troops. .

        After the riots, the department refined some of its tactics, including development of a mobile field force that can deploy 50 officers in about 45 minutes.

        That was modeled after a similar program in Miami.

        In preparation for the O.J. Simpson verdict, the LAPD beefed up deployment, trained officers in crowd control and had a written plan in place weeks beforehand.

        The mayor cut short a two-week trade mission to Asia, while the White House and the governor's office promised additional resources if necessary.

        “Knowing it was going to be a divisive verdict, we were prepared,” Sgt. Pasquariello said.

        In that trial, verdicts were sealed overnight while city officials and church leaders called for calm. A plan for keeping the peace was put in place. While no rioting occurred — Mr. Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his wife and her male friend — the officers were ready, Sgt. Pasquariello said.

        He had more advice for Cincinnati cops.

        “That's the bottom line: Don't let politics detract you from the police mission, which is to restore order,” he said.

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