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Officials Use Riot Alert to Fine-Tune Police, Fire Strategies : Preparedness: City spent about $88,500 to counter unrest that never developed after King verdicts. But authorities say plan could be used during any future threats or following an earthquake.

April 22, 1993|TOMMY LI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GLENDALE — Police and fire agencies in Glendale spent as much as $88,500 for personnel and supplies to prepare for events that never occurred after the Rodney G. King federal civil rights trial, officials said.

Despite the costs, officials believe they have come up with strategies that could be used should a similar threat, or another disaster such as an earthquake, strike the area.

"You have the (Reginald) Denny trial coming up, you have the sentencing (of the two convicted officers) coming up in August. . . . It would still be a viable plan," Glendale Police Lt. Mark Distaso said.

"We could actually institute it in circumstances of major earthquakes" if looting were to break, said Distaso, who was in charge of coordinating riot-preparedness efforts.

The plan included cooperation with local firefighters.

If needed, 100 National Guard troops, who were called to the city's armory, were also prepared to assist in an effort to prevent a repeat of what happened countywide last spring after the not guilty verdicts in the state trial of four Los Angeles police officers in the beating of the Altadena motorist. Another 500 guard troops were sent to six armories in Burbank, Sylmar, Arcadia, Van Nuys, Los Alamitos and Inglewood.

Police restocked $1,000 worth of tear gas canisters and bought $2,500 worth of pepper spray, which causes a burning sensation in the eyes and can weaken a suspect.

Last month, Distaso held a training session for the department's Tactical Operations Support Squad, which he also commands. Officers were taught to use the pepper spray, to rescue motorists from vehicles and to disperse large crowds, he said.

But the biggest expense involved police personnel costs, which could reach $60,000 when accounting is completed, Distaso said.

From April 12 to Monday, police steadily increased enforcement around the city, including the downtown area and the Glendale Galleria.

When the verdicts, including guilty judgments against two of the LAPD officers, were announced in Los Angeles federal court Saturday morning, police doubled their force to 30 officers.

Distaso said special units, such as the gang task force, were working additional hours.

Glendale firefighters were also on alert but never had to call off-duty personnel to work. Fire Chief Richard Hinz said the department spent about $25,000 in "all aspects of preparedness."

Hinz said the exercise helped develop a better communication system with local police, especially in the area of setting up police escorts for firefighters.

If an outbreak of violence had occurred, the Fire Department would have doubled its usual force from 50 to 100. Twenty-five to 30 of those firefighters would have been available to assist other agencies.

By Sunday night, the troops sent to the National Guard's 3-160 Infantry unit in Glendale were on their way home.

"It certainly was a good rehearsal for us . . . not having done this before," Guard spokeswoman Maj. Pat Antosh said.

"I think that this makes us all a lot more confident that we could do our jobs," she said.

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