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Magazine Probe Finds Police Botched Response to Santa Monica Riots
By Jorge Casuso
November 17, 2020 -- The main findings of a Lookout probe into the Police Department's failure to contain the violence and looting in Santa Monica on May 31 were confirmed by an investigation published Tuesday by Los Angeles Magazine.
The magazine's investigation -- based on hundreds of documents obtained through public records requests and interviews with past and present officials -- "undermines" the City's argument that police "were overwhelmed by forces beyond their control."
"Rather, the evidence shows that incompetence, inexperience, and a failure to respond to clear warning signs played a major role in what outside experts believe was a largely preventable catastrophe," the investigation concluded.
Among the key findings were the following:
The report also confirmed the Lookout's finding that former Police Chief Cynthia Renaud was out of town to attend her daughter's graduation and did not arrive in Santa Monica until the morning of May 31.
Although the Chief called in extra reinforcements, many "live more than an hour’s drive away -- in places like Palmdale and Thousand Oaks -- and by the time they arrived much of the damage was done," the magazine reported.
The LA Magazine investigation comes less than one month after Renaud shared "preliminary findings" on the police response to the riots ("Police Chief Shares 'Preliminary Findings' on Response to Riots," October 23, 2020).
The report -- released days before the chief unexpectedly retired -- found that police were unprepared for "three, separate events that converged" simultaneously and "ultimately prioritized life and personal safety."
Wile police were prepared for peaceful protesters and "riotous individuals," Renaud wrote, they were not prepared for the "massive groups of extremely organized individuals, who were unassociated with the protests, committing highly mobile, well-coordinated looting at multiple locations throughout the city."
Renaud's brief update came shortly after the City hired a consulting firm to investigate the police response four months after the City Council first directed staff to do so.
OIR Group will be paid $75,000 to provide within 180 days "a written narrative of facts regarding those events" and "an independent evaluation of, and recommendations regarding, the City’s response."
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