By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Why would Bratton move so fast that the City Council was prevented from questioning the top cop on scene? Judging from Bratton’s remarks to the Police Commission and City Council, he still doesn’t even know what Carter was thinking. “We can’t explain it,” the chief conceded to the Police Commission about Carter’s alleged lack of action.
In effect, Bratton hamstrung his investigation, as well as the council’s, by forcing Carter out with an extremely rare public tongue-lashing that diverted attention away from himself.
Some seasoned LAPD observers say it does appear Carter failed on May 1, even though he had worked other demonstrations in Central Bureau. Carol Sobel, president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, points out, “He was put to the test on this one, and he couldn’t handle it. He failed.”
Sobel knows the LAPD well. She handles most of the demonstration litigation in Los Angeles, so she constantly meets with the police, and helped rewrite the LAPD crowd-control manual in the mid-1990s. She says Deputy Chief Mike Hillman, whom Bratton last week chose to head his newly created Critical Management Bureau, would have been the “best person” to handle MacArthur Park.
There was only one problem: According to Sobel, Bratton doesn’t assign a demonstration to the brass with the best credentials. Instead, assignments are based on turf. It’s a curious policy, particularly since Bratton has Hillman, a highly regarded specialist, in his ranks. The chief has described Hillman as a “resident expert” who is “internationally renowned” for crowd-control management.
But Bratton failed to utilize Hillman’s globally recognized expertise before everything went sideways on May 1, raising the question of whether blame for the MacArthur Park Fuckup should rest on Bratton, not Carter.
The subplot is this: Before Hillman was moved to West Bureau by Bratton, he was commanding officer of Special Operations Bureau, which supervises Metropolitan Division.
Hillman was a big believer in “training” — the issue cited most often by politicians and police watchdogs in the wake of MacArthur Park. The chief, in contrast, is a believer in “crime suppression,” and last year wanted to cut back on training and send more Metro officers into hot spots. When Hillman complained, according to Zine and “Jack Dunphy” (an LAPD officer who writes under a pseudonym for National Review), Bratton shunted Hillman aside.
Once Hillman was reassigned, training became less of a priority at Metro. A year or so later, MacArthur Park blew up. Is that Cayler Carter’s fault?
“Crowd control is one of the most important areas of police training,” says Maria Haberfeld, a leading expert on crowd control and chair of the department of law and police science at John Jay College in New York. “In my mind, the ultimate responsibility of training lies on the chief of police, so some of the blame should be taken by him.”
Somehow, Bratton manages to dodge blame. Maybe it’s his incessant use of that crackerjack phrase “transparent and accountable” that saves him from scrutiny. Whatever it is, Los Angeles is witnessing the work of a political and public-relations genius. Residents just better hope that more old people, women and children at public rallies aren’t terrorized after the razzmatazz is over.