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Gates Defends Riot Planning of LAPD, Concedes Mistakes : Police: Chief says department performed 'beautifully.' But he blames field lieutenant for not regrouping officers and sending them back to key intersection.


She said there is an effort afoot to urge him to do so: "I think it is being explored." Gates, in his news conference, indicated that he will leave when he has said he will--at the end of June.

Gates' statements Friday come after a week of disclosures that pointed to problems in the LAPD's response in the frantic moments of the start of the riots, as well as allegations that the department never was fully prepared for such a major civil disturbance.

Now-retired Assistant Chief Robert L. Vernon stated that the police were to have gone on immediate tactical alert once the verdicts were announced--regardless of guilt or acquittals for the four officers. But numerous police officials, including Deputy Chief Ron Frankle, said they knew nothing about such a directive.

As it turned out, a citywide tactical alert was not announced until 6:55 p.m. on April 29, almost four hours after the verdicts were read in the Simi Valley courtroom and almost six hours after the jurors had notified the judge that they had reached a decision.

In addition, Deputy Chief Matthew V. Hunt told The Times that he pressed Gates for greater preparation before the verdicts, but that the chief rebuffed his requests. And when the violence began, Hunt said, he and other top police officials found themselves overwhelmed with the gravity of the situation.

During his news conference, Gates appeared with Vernon, who has said he ordered extensive planning and training before he announced his retirement recently. As he stood by Gates, Vernon displayed two large charts outlining his preparations.

Although Vernon remained quiet, Gates said there had been audits of the department's readiness, drills and meetings. The chief emphasized that throughout the planning the department attempted to maintain a low profile.

"We did this in a way that we hoped would not be provocative," Gates said, adding that he had personally been assailed "almost every day" before the beating verdicts with allegations that he was inflaming emotions.

He said the department planned in a responsible manner with an eye toward acting "as a calming force in the city."

Gates also defended the department against charges by fire officials that the police failed to protect firefighters as they headed into riot-torn areas of the city to fight arson blazes.

"We promised them protection from the beginning," Gates said. "We tried very hard to give them that protection." Gates said that his officers rescued firefighters trapped in a station.

"I am very, very proud of my officers," the chief said, praising their bravery as they ventured into dangerous areas throughout the city to quell riotous mobs. "We did a far better job than in 1965," Gates said. Back then, he said, it took five days to end the Watts riots; this time it took only three, with fewer deaths at the hands of police.

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