YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Police, Citizens Brace for End of King Case : Planning: Authorities may be trying to reassure the public that they can control any unrest, but some residents have opted to protect themselves.


WESTSIDE — With a verdict apparently imminent in the Rodney G. King federal civil rights trial, police from Malibu to Mar Vista this week predicted calm but prepared for potential chaos as a quiet Angst took hold on the Westside.

The impulse of residents and business people is to carry on as usual and hope for the best. But beneath the bravado lurk still-fresh memories of last spring's upheaval following the acquittals on all but one charge handed down in the state trial of the four Los Angeles police officers involved in the King beating.

"I'm terrified--I don't know what to expect," said Raleigh Pedveen of Brentwood.

Law enforcement officials have repeatedly reassured the public that they are ready for any trouble the announcement of the verdicts--which might come as early as this weekend--could bring.

"Our goal is to stop it before it gets started," said Lt. Frank Salcido of the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Police were quick to discount persistent rumors that upscale Westside communities have been targeted by gangs.

"It's talk on the street. . . . It could be on the bathroom wall, for all I know," said Sgt. Jeff Hanson of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Los Angeles Division. "All I can say is we can't be any more prepared than we are right now."

Authorities said they plan to watch potential trouble spots closely, including Westwood Village, Venice Beach, Venice's Oakwood neighborhood, the Mar Vista Gardens housing project, La Cienega Boulevard and major shopping malls.

"History's telling us what to look at this time," said Capt. Russ Leach of the LAPD's Pacific Division.

In Venice, one of the few Westside neighborhoods where rioting occurred last year, police and gang workers plan to rely on informal telephone networks through which residents may talk to authorities about rumors. Workers in the city's Neighbor to Neighbor program have been on the streets in Oakwood over the last two weeks, talking to gang members, squelching rumors and making plans to use a neighborhood church and nearby park as sanctuaries in case of rioting.

Although police repeated that they are ready to respond, officials added that they expect no trouble in the neighborhood, where a bicyclist was severely beaten at the beginning of the riots. "More than anything, I'm hearing that there won't be any problems in Oakwood," said LAPD Officer Donna Cox, the neighborhood specialist.

Playing a big part in the regional strategy to keep the peace on the Westside are the law enforcement agencies of the smaller cities, which enjoyed a fair degree of success against rioters last spring.

In West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, looters carried their mayhem right to the borders of the cities but no farther. Culver City and Santa Monica police also managed to avert most of the trouble.

A mutual aid network that will include the Pacific and West Los Angeles divisions of the LAPD as well as the Culver City and Santa Monica police departments will operate from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's West Hollywood station.

The station will funnel requests for reinforcements to a regional command post and staging area.

Police officials noted that their tactics were put to the test last month when 3,000 rock fans flooded a Sunset Boulevard club on the same day a West Hollywood riot drill was held. An estimated 100 sheriff's deputies and Beverly Hills police officers equipped with rubber bullets and gas masks rolled to the scene, closing the Sunset Strip for hours and giving authorities an unexpected chance to practice their crowd-control plans.

"You couldn't have asked for anything more real life," said Capt. Clarence Chapman of the West Hollywood station.

In Beverly Hills, the 127-member Police Department is prepared to saturate the six-square-mile community with officers. If necessary, officials added, they will fall back on mutual aid agreements with Culver City and Santa Monica police. (Concerned with liability issues, Beverly Hills has yet to join the countywide mutual aid program sponsored by the Los Angeles County Police Chief's Assn. and the county Sheriff's Department.)

Culver City Police Chief Ted Cooke said he has no riot strategy per se but will rely on a basic emergency plan that he said affords a quick, flexible response to any number of events.

"What we do is react to whatever we have to deal with," Cooke said. "For example, if you plan for an airplane crash and you have a tidal wave, you're in trouble. We have to plan for all emergencies. That's what we do for a living."

Key elements of the Culver City plan include beefing up shifts and putting some paperwork on hold to free office staff for field work. A command center will be set up at the main fire station downtown, and city staff will be on hand to set curfews, arrange room and board for National Guard troops and take other emergency measures.

Los Angeles Times Articles