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They're Not Expecting Trouble, but They're Ready : Law enforcement: Equipment, staffing and countywide communication have been upgraded for rapid response should civil unrest follow the King verdicts.

April 08, 1993|VICKI TORRES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — Tactical plans are complete, pepper spray and riot helmets are waiting, and 100 riot-trained officers are set for action in Glendale should civil disturbances follow verdicts in the Rodney G. King civil rights trial, officials said.

In addition, communication channels are open, not only with the Los Angeles police and county sheriff's departments, but also with the city's Armenian, Latino and Asian communities.

"This year, we anticipate that the city of Glendale will be relatively unscathed," police spokesman Sgt. Lief Nicolaisen said. "But we have a highly trained, quickly mobilized force to be put into use should there be any unrest."

Like law enforcement officials in the adjacent San Gabriel Valley, Glendale police say they can cope with a city under siege if last year's countywide unrest is duplicated.

On April 29 last year, violence followed the not guilty verdicts for four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Altadena motorist King. The verdict in Simi Valley Superior Court sparked five days of vandalism, looting and arson with 52 deaths, 10,000 businesses destroyed and $1 billion in damage.

Although Glendale reported only two break-ins, one attempted break-in and a handful of arrests, police have nonetheless geared up as the civil rights trial has progressed through U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, Nicolaisen said.

Out of its 215 sworn officers, Glendale has assigned up to 100 officers to its Tactical Operations Support Squad.

The group received training in chemical weapons, batons and high-pressure water hoses to control crowds, Nicolaisen said. They also learned a relatively new rescue technique by which police cars in formation break through rioting crowds to rescue individuals under attack. Such attacks occurred in some parts of Los Angeles where police were outnumbered or did not respond.

The department also devised four distinct levels of police response to cope with increasing levels of violence, Nicolaisen said.

Backing up the Glendale police presence is the National Guard, whose armory is located on Colorado Boulevard east of Brand Boulevard. The presence of armored vehicles and possible troops serves as a deterrent to those looking for places to do damage, Nicolaisen said.

Meanwhile, the department's Intercultural Relations Officer, Chahe Keuroghelian, has been working with the city's Armenians, Latinos, Asians and blacks to improve communication between the city's diverse communities and the Police Department.

Communication is also at an all-time high between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department under sharpened mutual aid plans, officials say.

With the revised plans, sheriff's deputies and law enforcement officers will be sent where needed. Thus, if Glendale is quiet, some officers could be sent to hot spots elsewhere.

"Mutual aid before was more knee-jerk," Nicolaisen said. "Someone would be calling in a panic and asking for help. Now, it's coordinated before it happens."

Law enforcement officials in the nearby San Gabriel Valley also stress the improved communications that now exist.

"We had a plan last year, but we lacked the proper training, we lacked the proper equipment and we lacked countywide coordination," Baldwin Park Police Chief Carmine Lanza said. "All of those things we have this year."

Even though the San Gabriel Valley experienced only scattered incidents, in Pasadena, Pomona, El Monte and Monrovia, most police departments in the region have made preparations similar to those in Glendale.

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Equipment has been updated. Bullet-resistant vests, tear gas, helmets, face shields and gas masks have been ordered or purchased, using drug-bust asset forfeiture money, officials said.

Riot training also has been given to many Valley police officers by in-house instructors or officers from other agencies, including the LAPD and the Sheriff's Department.

Tactical plans have been revised. Last year, gang members gathered in several locations in Pasadena, raced through town, stopped their cars in front of targeted businesses and then piled out to vandalize and rob, said Pasadena Police Cmdr. Gary Bennett. This year, police will use helicopters to keep tabs on gangs.

Like Glendale's, mutual aid plans will allow city police departments in the valley to communicate their needs to one of four area sheriff's stations. The Sheriff's Department will then oversee deployment countywide.

Paralleling police and fire department preparedness is community activity in a number of cities.

In Pasadena, six community forums will be held next week by the We Care Coalition, a group formed a year ago to counter civil disobedience.

"We will talk about racism, fear, anger and frustration," said co-chairman Alan La Sha.

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