Lakers Riots Embarrass LAPD

"It could have been a lot worse."

So said Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger of the downtown L.A. melee that followed the Lakers' victory over the Orlando Magic last Sunday. If that's the standard the LAPD is shooting for these days, the city is in big, big trouble.  By the time the last of the Lakers' "fans" were cleared from the streets that night, eight police officers had been injured, three businesses looted, and several cars and transit buses vandalized, all broadcast live from television news helicopters.

You just knew there was a problem with LAPD's response when the ACLU approved of it. Attorney Carol Sobel, who represented plaintiffs who sued the LAPD after the 2007 May Day melee at L.A.'s MacArthur Park, told the Los Angeles Times that the LAPD had learned from its mistakes. "They didn't come out in all their riot gear and I think that helped," Sobel said. "You saw the line officers and it created a different dynamic. They were able to disperse people and do it in a less confrontational manner. They had a presence but they moved out people without the level of confrontation that existed in the past."

Heavens, we wouldn't want to be "confrontational" with anyone looting a store or vandalizing a bus, would we? Perish the thought!

Expressing a dissenting view was Richard Torres, 29. Torres owns a vintage shoe store a few blocks from the Staples Center, and when he saw on television that trouble was brewing after the game he headed downtown. When he arrived at his store he found it had been trashed and that nearly all of his $140,000 in inventory had been looted. Some of the shoes had been set on fire in the street in front of the store. One might speculate that Mr. Torres and the others who had their stores pillaged wish the police had been just a bit more confrontational.

But yes, it could indeed have been worse. As riots go, it was small potatoes. But that's hardly cause to characterize as a triumph what was in reality an embarrassment for the LAPD. "In their Monday morning analysis," said the Los Angeles Times, "police commanders declared the [non-confrontational] approach a success, limiting injuries and property damage, and showing the public that the department could restrain the use of force."