Departments also were criticized for not planning for protests, despite evidence that they would be large. In Los Angeles, “the lack of adequate planning and preparation caused the Department to be reactive, rather than proactive,” inhibiting the officers’ ability to control the violence committed by small groups of people.
As with the protests in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 that culminated in the Capitol riot, police also did not understand how angry people were, in some cases because they lacked resources devoted to intelligence and outreach that would have put them in better touch with their communities.
“American police simply were not prepared for the challenge that they faced in terms of planning, logistics, training and police command-and-control supervision,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit that advises departments on management and tactics.
Police departments in some cities have fought back against the findings, arguing that officers were asked to confront unruly crowds who lit fires, smashed shop windows and sometimes attacked the police. Business owners, downtown residents and elected leaders demanded a strong response against protesters who were often never held accountable, the police have said.
“Heaping blame on police departments while ignoring the criminals who used protests as cover for planned and coordinated violence almost guarantees a repeat of the chaos we saw last summer,” said Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association in New York City.
‘Warrior’ vs. ‘guardian’
On May 29, Indianapolis police showed up with helmets, face shields, reinforced vests and batons. Protesters told investigators this “made the police look militarized and ready for battle.”
At a largely peaceful Chicago protest on May 30, a demonstrator later told the inspector general’s office, the mood shifted when the police arrived. “They were dressed in riot gear,” the protester said. He added: “They had batons in their hands already.”