Six Hours of Chaos

By: 
Stephen Downing

On June 23, the Long Beach City Council’s Public Safety Committee chaired by Councilmember Suzie Price, convened – with committee members Daryl Supernaw and Al Austin – to review the city’s Police and Fire Departments performance on Sunday, May 31, when downtown civil demonstrations, infiltrated by bad actors, erupted into assaults, arson and looting.

In his presentation to the committee, Chief Robert Luna acknowledged receipt of open source intelligence surrounding the violence that erupted in the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills on May 29 and 30 and the outbreak of arson and looting in Santa Monica on the morning of May 31.

Without being asked, Luna defended his planning and readiness for the May 31 violence by recapping meetings he had with his command staff beginning May 29 “as we started to observe that the level of violence, specifically in the City of Los Angeles was starting to increase.”

Luna continued, “We were getting information about protests that were going to occur in the city of Huntington Beach and other cities around us and it was at that time that we became aware of a protest that was scheduled to take place in front of the police station at 400 West Broadway.”

From those meetings Luna said, “We brought in command staff and activated the department command center to monitor activity outside of the city, to see how it would impact our city.”

Luna continued his report, telling the committee that he had an event action plan, authored by a commander, “to make sure that we were properly preparing for just about anything that would happen” and that “we also made some operations changes within patrol and started to assign two person cars because we didn’t want the officers riding around on their own.”

Luna then took the committee to Saturday, May 30, informing the councilmembers that he brought in additional personnel beyond what “we normally deploy.”

The chief declined to specify how many additional personnel he “brought in” but acknowledged, “On that evening Los Angeles really started to have significant challenges with violence, large protests where some of them turned violent and there was looting involved.”

Luna said that because of this, the Los Angeles County Sheriff implemented mutual aid requests and the LBPD “sent several dozen of our officers to the City of Los Angeles.”

At this point of his testimony, Luna paused to point out that “One of our local media outlets reported some bad information and tried to make our department look bad.”

Luna defended the fact he did not order a full mobilization of his department until May 31 when his officers became overwhelmed during the “six hours of chaos” by relying upon his observations of the Los Angeles Police Department’s experience over the prior two days.

He said, “They (the LAPD) didn’t go full mobilization until Saturday, May 30, the second day of their problems and that’s when they summoned assistance though our mutual aid system – and that’s what I’ll be describing, because when you help others in our system, eventually you need help yourself.”

Luna admitted that he had advanced information about civil rights demonstrations planned for downtown Long Beach on the afternoon of May 31 but did not address the LBPD’s failure to order a full department mobilization of personnel based upon the high probability of violence, looting and arson (as experienced in the other cities) or the need to deploy a field jail capability to afford rapid intake of persons arrested for looting, arson or other forms of felony level violence – and no member of the Public Safety Committee questioned those failures.

Instead, Luna defended the LBPD response by saying “The hundreds of protesters we planned for turned out to be thousands of protestors … but unfortunately the true spirit of the protest was hijacked by several dozen agitators who attacked our police officers with bottles and then damaged several police cars … and the crowds just kept on getting bigger. We estimate that the total crowd size – and crowd sizing is not an easy thing to put your finger on – we estimate it was at least 5,000 if not more.”

The chief then launched into a defense of why the Police Department did not make arrests when the violence and looting started. He did not mention the absence of a field jail rapid intake capability so that arresting officers could be quickly returned to the field.

He said, “There are, I don’t know if you want to call them rumors or statements that are made that either the city manager or the mayor or somebody gave the Police Department direction not to make arrests, not to arrest looters. That is absolutely false. I was in the room when the assistant chief gave direction. The priority was to protect life and critical infrastructure to facilitate a safe environment for persons lawfully exercising their first amendment rights and to provide a coordinated response to any unlawful activity related to crowd management and try and manage calls for service throughout the rest of the city.”

The chief followed his recitation of this policy statement by assigning blame for the failure to arrest looters to his sergeants and lieutenants in the field.

Luna said, “I want to emphasize in our priorities that the preservation of life was our top priority. It is extremely, extremely unfortunate that we had our businesses looted by thieves in the middle of this extreme chaos, and our field commanders, I think, did the best they could. So, they prioritized life over property. Although we absolutely hated seeing any of the looting, the field supervisors that were out there didn’t feel it was safe to make arrests at that specific time.”

Luna did not provide any rationale or examples of why “the field supervisors didn’t feel it was safe” to make arrests nor did he describe any field situations in which officers were faced with deciding between saving a life over arresting looters or other felons – and none of the councilmembers questioned the chief as to the incongruities inherent to his “preservation of life” logic.

Councilmember Price did ask Luna to speak to the complaints from “People watching images on TV and saying that police officers warrant making arrest of folks that were running in and out of stores and causing unrest and maybe participating in vandalism…”

In response, Luna once again relied upon his “preservation of life is our top priority” logic to defend the absence of looting arrests. He added, “We would love to not only preserve life, but the goal is for no business to be damaged, no business to be looted.”

Luna testified, “I’ve seen some video of officers that were there not making arrests during that six hours of chaos and those are some of the adjustments we made. There was no order from the top not to make arrests, but the supervisors on scene didn’t feel that it was safe to do so at the time.”

He continued, “Those are things that are being debriefed and they were corrected and if that happens again right now tonight I can almost assure you that would not occur again.”

Price did not question the chief as to why he could not protect the businesses and preserve life at the same time or examine the question of how lives were in danger to the extent that “field supervisors” believed a safe response to looting was not possible.

She also did not question the chief as to what rationale prevailed in the “debrief” to change the logic used to justify the “no arrest” decisions allegedly made by field supervisors during the May 31 chaos.

The Beachcomber received calls from three separate inside sources, each of which asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. All stated that the order not to arrest looters and other felons came from the top, not the sergeants or the lieutenants on the street.

One insider said, “Everybody is upset. They’re calling Luna “Bunker Baby” because he was hiding in a bunker not giving commands.”

Another said, “If it was the lieutenants’ and sergeants’ fault why didn’t he override the command? We have radios, you know, not carrier pigeons.”

An anonymous open letter posted online at Reddit on June 2 and later posted on the Beachcomber website: (https://beachcomber.news/content/i-am-white-officer-lbpd by an individual identifying as “I am a white officer with the LBPD” said, in part, “By 7 p.m. we were ordered to come in hot to every call just to show a presence and try dispersal. We were told to not make arrests because we didn’t have the time or manpower.”

In another paragraph the anonymous officer wrote: “We are also working with the sergeants and lieutenants to look at what happened yesterday. Why exactly the brass gave the order to use less than lethal rounds on an otherwise peaceful crowd with only a ‘few bad apples.’ We had the technology to identify vandals in the crowd and we want to know why that wasn’t better utilized.”

One of the more outspoken LBPD officers, Mary Katherine Covarubias, posted her distain for Chief Luna blaming the “no arrest” orders on the field sergeants and lieutenants twice on her Facebook page.

In response to an early news report that Luna denied making the “no arrest order,” Covarubias’ first post said, “Wow. I wish our field supervisors had this much power. They were the only ones out there with us on that unprepared night, but okay. They weren’t hiding out at fire stations. I really hope this article was taken out of context. Our field supervisors worked their butts off right along with us. What a (another) hit for morale.”

Covarubias’ second Facebook post was in response to a later LB Post article on the same subject. She wrote, “Six hours of chaos where? From inside the fire station where they hid all night? It (the no arrest order) came directly from the chief. Pull the audio. Six hours of “chaos”? Is that what we’re calling it?

The LBPD officer continued, “Watching people steal an ATM and load it into their car (but not having enough officers to stop them), watching all CVS stores in East Division repeatedly get looted … Walgreens … all of the shoe warehouses getting destroyed as officers stood around waiting for an assignment just blocks away. I think it was more than that. Ask Sheriff Villanueva, he came out and (tried to) help us. Do NOT blame this one on the field supervisors.”

At the top of the Public Safety Committee meeting Councilmember Price established her goal for the hearing stating, “I want to highlight that as a result of the conversations today, there may be a motion to have something recommended to City Council that will be discussed later or at the council level, but that’s kind of where my head is moving into this, that we will, as a public safety committee, make recommendations to the full council.”

In the end there were no recommendations made by Price’s committee other than to make permanent Chief Luna’s executive order issued on June 10 to temporarily suspend police use of the carotid restraint (chokehold) “while policy revisions happen within the department.”

The “chokehold” is a police restraint technique banned by the LAPD in 1982, the NYPD in 1993, Chicago in 2012 and other major city departments across the nation by 2015.

The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee is scheduled for July 14.

 

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com

Category:

Comments

Bunker mentality of the "leadership". Passing blame to subordinates. Evading responsibility. Lying...

Now where did I hear that before?

Question, Can the city order some kind of survey from LBPD officers and LB residents to see if we have confidence in Luna and his staff? Am sure he would get a vote of NO CONFIDENCE. Let's get this corrupt POS out.

Nope.

Wow!! What a disgrace to his own police department, the city and the taxpayers who pay this clown over $200,000. The corrupt POS can't even take responsibility for his incompetent leadership; way to pass the buck! It's obvious that that his own officers are disgusted by his incompetence. I can't believe that this corrupt City Council member did not hold him accountable and only ask softball questions.

If what incompetent Luna is saying is true about his staff making the decision to not arrest looters then we the taxpayer must know the identity of these incompetent people. The department must investigate and contact the FBI. How do you know that these lower staff members are not part of ANTIFA or conspired to help destroy the city?. (You all know what am getting at.) Luna is a lying POS. We need this clown out of our city along with his buddy the mayor, who is silent in all this.

Luna was hiding in a bunker/Fire station!! Why was he not with the line officers making decisions? I saw the LAPD chief and the LASO xhief out with their officers on TV, and according to LBPD officer the police chief that came out to stand by LBPD was the LA sheriff. This is the leadership they have in LBC. Why are we not disbanding the LBPD and hiring LASD? Looks like they are better and would save us millions of dollars.

Great reporting - thanks

Dang Downing, still pinning all your info on officers out of the loop and out the door. You rode the last one till he was gone and now are pinning all your hopes on another East one!

Weird, 1 Officer squeals to you out of like 840 and you jump on that info! Hang it up, this doesn’t make up for your dirt at LAPD...just looks like your meds need adjusting

Seems like Downing hit a nerve on the incompetent and cowardly cops like you. LOL

LOL??? What are you? Five? How can you tell if a person you never met is incompetent and cowardly from your keyboard? What happened? Did you fail the battery of tests and exams and interviews and the LBPD or some other agency told you that you should consider another line of work?

LET'S KEEP THE PERSONAL ATTACKS OUT OF THIS AND FOCUS ON THE ISSUES ... OR I'LL DELETE THEM. -- PUBLISHER

its obvious that "Again" is a LBPD cop,,,and if any cop that believes that another officer comes out and reports misconduct by other officer is considered "Squealing" than that person is incompetent and a coward in my book, just like you are if you are condoning that type of behavior. This clown try's to negatively attack Downing for writing this article because he knows that the LBPD is a criminal organization that needs to be disbanded. Why don't you consider the comments to the writer a "personal attack"? Why, because you are a Luna bootlicker. And for the record I would not want to work for a corrupt organization that attacks peaceful protesters and ignores criminals looting the city.

Mr. Beeler, all I see from this person Bad Apple is personal attacks. Do you condone that?

NO, THAT'S WHY WE ARE PUTTING OUT THE TRASH. JB

The long time focus on banning choke holds is window dressing, merely a distraction intended to divert attention from the real issues people should be focusing on, which are "qualified immunity" and "officer bill of rights" laws that protect law enforcement from being fired or prosecuted.

95% of the police brutality and and racism issues could be solved by repealing "qualified immunity" and "officer bill of rights" laws. If those two laws are repealed, it can be left to a jury to decide whether an officer should be punished because the officer violated a person's civil rights by misapplying a choke hold that killed the person. Knowing they are no longer protected by those two laws, law enforcement would apply more care utilizing potentially lethal tactics to arrest people.

You notice the cop commentors never respond to my posts about repealing "qualified immunity" and "officer bill of rights." That's because they are afraid to bring attention to this issue which is forefront on their union's list of protections they must strive to keep.

You're entitled to your personal opinion.

My understanding is everyone is intitled to their personal opinion in the USA, even though many believe they are entitled. There's a difference. It's been my experience that most cops believe they are entitled.

Again, you're entitled to your personal opinion.

I hear there's a major mayor garcia recall petition starting circulation! Where do we get it to sign and circulate?

GARCIA BE GONE!

[We received an inquiry last week from an individual involved with that effort who was looking to place an ad necessary before submitting the recall info to the CA Secretary of State. Check other local newspaper legal ads to see if contact info is provided. -- Publisher 7/5/20]

Am in!!!! can we please include the COP Luna and his bootlicking staff, the City Attorney, City Manager and last but not at all least all the City Council. They all need to go they are all on the take by LBPD union.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Beachcomber

Copyright 2020 Beeler & Associates.

All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced or transmitted – by any means – without publisher's written permission.