LOS ANGELES – Police Chief William Bratton on Tuesday faulted his department for using poor communication and planning at a May Day immigration rally where officers fired rubber bullets and swung batons to disperse a crowd of demonstrators and journalists.
"It was quite apparent ... it all broke down," Bratton said after the city's civilian Police Commission was given a minute-by-minute account of the violent melee.
Police said they moved on protesters after being pelted with rocks and bottles. Nobody was seriously hurt, but dozens of citizen complaints were filed. Bratton has said the clash embarrassed the department.
Bratton said Tuesday that there was confusion over who the incident commander was and that approval to use non-lethal projectiles was given by a commander who was a block away from the side of the MacArthur Park where officers opened fire.
"We can do better than that. We have done better than that," Bratton said.
Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonald presented the five-member Police Commission with a slide show accompanied by audio of police radio traffic that highlighted the chaotic conditions just before officers moved in.
Officers reported being targeted by "agitators" throwing rocks and bottles.
"It's just those anarchist kids," one officer said. "It looks like they're inciting everybody else."
"Guys are getting hit and they're getting hurt. And every time we stop, we're taking a beating over here," another said.
"Hey, let's get it going! We're getting killed over here!" said another before officers swept the north side of the park.
McDonald said the police order to disperse — given overhead by a helicopter and difficult to hear — was not legal. Police failed to tell the crowds where to go, how much time they had to leave and the law under which the order was being issued.
When the police moved in they ended up pushing the troublemakers into the crowd of peaceful protesters on the north side of the park.
"Had a strategy been developed to get those (agitators) surgically removed from the crowd, then certainly we anticipate the outcome would have been a lot different," McDonald said.
Tuesday's presentation served as an update to the department's still-unfinished report evaluating operations and planning, one of several reviews and investigations under way.