ALEX COHEN, host:
There have also been troubles with the police department here in L.A. Five months ago, an immigrant rights march in Los Angeles turned violent. The event made national news when LAPD officers were shown swinging batons and firing rubber bullets at protesters and journalists, including this Fox TV reporter.
(Soundbite of Fox News telecast)
Unidentified Woman #1: I am helping it (unintelligible).
Unidentified Man #1: Move her back away from the (unintelligible) side, or you're under arrest.
Unidentified Man #2: This way. (unintelligible)
Unidentified Woman #1: You can't do that. You can't do that, you know that.
Unidentified Man #2: Go on this way. Go this way, come on.
COHEN: Now a new report out from the LAPD says the police were to blame and used excessive force. Police Chief William Bratton says as many as 26 officers are under internal investigation.
Joining me now is Connie Rice. She's a civil rights attorney with the Advancement Project in Los Angeles. Welcome to the program.
Ms. CONNIE RICE (Co-founder and Director, Advancement Project): Thank you.
COHEN: So Connie, you've read this report. What's your reaction?
Ms. RICE: Well, I think people need to understand that for LAPD, this is an unusually blunt and self-critical report. In the past, we couldn't even get LAPD to ever recognize that it had done anything wrong, and here we have a chief of police, Chief Bratton, who has taken responsibility, apologized and issued a first-phase report, because there's still investigations going on.
But this report actually sets out the facts. It admits there was a meltdown in command and control, the training. The use of force was probably excessive, although they haven't concluded conclusively those investigations. But as self critical as it is and as probing as it is - and they need to be congratulated for that, I want to make that clear - the question really is how you could have had such lapses in judgment and have made the same mistakes, because this is the not the first time that LAPD has found itself in this situation.
COHEN: What were some of the explanations that they've offered as to why they made these mistakes?
Ms. RICE: Well, they focused at the operational and strategic level first - the lack of coordinated command, lack of situation awareness. The commanders didn't know the whole situation. There was clear confusion on the ground. They pushed a few rabble rousers into the peaceful marchers, and then created a situation in the park where the police felt they were losing control. But what the report doesn't get into is why weren't the lessons learned from other similar public marches that also went wrong? And two, it isn't about training.
I think the critique here is that you don't need training to know that you don't take batons and chase mothers with baby strollers, and you don't knock over reporters with cameras. This is not a training issue. That's a judgment and common sense issue. And it's also an issue of - for specialized units, do they get to operate in any way they want to with impunity? And I don't think the report goes into the mindset and the attitudes that are still in some parts of LAPD that allow that kind of activity.
COHEN: LAPD Chief Bratton took very swift action after this incident. He immediately removed some of the officers involved. But is that enough? What more does he need to be doing?
Ms. RICE: Well, people need to understand how extraordinary that is. Chief Bratton immediately removed commanders. He didn't take it out on the rank and file, number one, so that's unusual. Not only that, the report talks about the necessity of protecting the First Amendment. I've never heard an LAPD report talk about protecting the Constitution. That's very different. So you've got to give Chief Bratton a lot of credit for bringing in some change agents to write this report.
The question, I think, is how do you change the thinking of the officers? This was really a question of how could they possibly have decided that it made good sense to do what they did? Because everybody looking in, and the including the police themselves, have said this was a meltdown and it made no sense. I think the most important part of the report says why didn't the lessons from the previous meltdown situation - which happened with the Democratic National Convention a few years ago - why weren't those lessons ever learned? When are these changes going to become the new way of doing business? We're not there yet with LAPD. We're not there with most American law enforcement departments.
COHEN: Civil rights attorney Connie Rice, thank you so much.
Ms. RICE: Thank you.