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Police Did Not Expect Looting, Demonstrations Sunday, Chief Says

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By Jorge Casuso

June 4, 2020 -- Santa Monica police did not expect the demonstrations and looting that swept through the city on Sunday, Police Chief Cynthia Renaud told the Lookout.

The events were "not expected or predicted," and there was "no specific or credible information that there was a threat to the city," Renaud said in an interview Wednesday.

Still, at around 10:30 Saturday night -- after Beverly Hills was targeted by looters -- the Chief contacted two officers and "we talked about the concern something would happen."

Twenty-two officers were called in to supplement the 35 that were scheduled for regular duty on Sunday, Renaud said.

"We had four or five times more than would have been normal," she said. "We were fully committed immediately."

Although a "peaceful protest" planned for Montana Avenue had been canceled, by noon large crowds were descending on the beach city, Renaud said.

Shortly after noon, the chief called in the National Guard, but the troops were tied up with violent protests in Los Angeles.

"While Santa Monica was having issues," Renaud said, "the City of LA was being hammered."

The National Guard -- which is only deployed after law enforcement agencies in the region have provided mutual aid -- would not arrive until after 8 p.m., Renaud said.

At around 12:45, the Chief ordered the department on tactical alert and called in additional officers.

"We had as many officers as SMPD could get on Sunday," Renaud said.

By mid afternoon, as officers engaged in an increasingly tense stand-off with demonstrators near the pier entrance, organized bands of looters were striking entire blocks Downtown ("Santa Monica Demonstration Turns Violent, Looters Ransack Stores," June 1, 2020).

They came "in teams, smashing, grabbing, looting and coming back," Renaud said. "It was incredibly challenging."

Police formed a barricade around the Third Street Promenade and fanned out across the area, but there weren't enough officers to control the looters, who were armed with tools and getaway cars, Renaud said.

"We were fully committed, fully deployed," she said. "We had a plan, but like others we got overrun by this tactic.

"Keep in mind how porous the borders were," the Chief said, noting that crowds continued to swell after the 10-Freeway exits were closed.

"Where we were, we were trying to contain the people we had," she said. "As soon as we left, the looters came back."

Reinforcements had arrived from law enforcement agencies in the cities of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Redondo Beach, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, as well as the Sheriff's Department.

But the beefed up force wasn't enough to stem the rampant looting.

"There were more businesses than police officers, and we were clearly overwhelmed by these large crowds," Renaud said.

"We didn't have officers to put in front of every store," she said.

"It was so frustrating to watch that we could not be everywhere at once."

Damage assessments completed by City teams found that 225 Santa Monica businesses had general damage, such as visible broken windows and doors, and 76 had "visible evidence of looting."

There was graffiti damage on 121 buildings, 48 had other "vandalization" and ten had fire or smoke damage.

City Manager Lane Dilg said the Chief's actions potentially saved lives and minimized damage.

"We are very proud that there was no loss of life in Santa Monica," Dilg told the Lookout. "Property damage was minimized.

"We deeply regret any business that lost property."

Dilg said she fully supported the police department and Chief Renaud's decisions Sunday.

There was "no loss of life, our officers are safe and we're coming out of this as a community," she said.

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