THE Sunday REVIEW: Luna states next time officers will stop looting

“I’ve seen some video of officers that were there not making arrests and those are some of the adjustments we made. There was no order from the top not to make arrests, but the Supervisors on scene didn’t feel that it was safe to do so at the time. Those are things that are being debriefed, and they were corrected, and if that happens again right now tonight, I can almost assure you that would not occur again.”                                                           

  – Police Chief Luna comments 6/23/20

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna made it clear that if looting ever occurs in Long Beach again, his officers will not stand down and will arrest looters and protect businesses. He made his comments last week on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, to the Long Beach City Council’s Public Safety Committee.

Why officers did not respond during the looting that took place during the protests on May 31st continues to be a topic in Long Beach. 

Both Long Beach fire Chief  Xavier Espino and Chief Luna gave reports and answered questions in the telephonic meeting. The Public Safety Committee’s agenda included Agenda Item 2 concerning the events of May 31st:

 Recommendation to receive a report from Police and Fire Departments on lessons learned from recent protests throughout the City, and specifically incidents of vandalism and violence on Sunday, May 31.

After Chief Espino’s short and concise ten-minute report to the Committee, Chief Luna went on a 20-minute opening oratory that at times turned into a disconnected ramble. After this opening, Luna then answered questions for 50 minutes from Committee Chair Suzie Price and members Daryl Supernaw and Al Austin.

THE Sunday REVIEW breaks down Chief Luna’s answers to the Public Safety Committee in an attempt to understand the events surrounding the LBPD response on  May 31st.   In particular the ongoing unanswered questions regarding the looting in Long Beach. 

Below, Chief Luna’s comments before the Public Safety Committee are broken into categories with accompanying comments and analysis.   In addition, the full transcripts of Chief Luna’s 20-minute commentary follows at the end of THE Sunday REVIEW. Transcripts of the  pertinent questions from Agenda Item 2’s Question-and-Answer session are also presented in this analysis.  Those questions include timestamps from the official audio of the meeting of the comments presented when it is outside the full transcripts of Luna’s statements presented at the end of  THE Sunday REVIEW.

For the link to the official City of Long Beach audio of the June 23rd Public Safety Commission :  

JUNE 23 PUBLIC SAFETY

The Good: Luna on looting- “if that happens again right now tonight, I can almost assure you that would not occur again.”

Chief Luna’s opening 20 minute statement touched on numerous themes. His statements that presented a wide range of background information, but few concrete answers to numerous community concerns or what the agenda called “lessons learned”. 

It was 46 minutes into Luna’s statements during the Question-and-Answer section when Committee Chair Suzie Price did get an answer to “lessons learned”. Price asked the Chief about the ongoing community concern over the television images of police officers standing and watching the looters.  It was there, Long Beach finally got an answer from the Chief. 


Luna finally acknowledged the reality of those images. and said if looting happens again, it would be different. 


That acknowledgment came after endless recitals from city leaders of prioritizing the “protection of life” and that it was “not safe” to stop the looters as hundreds of officers stood watching in Downtown.  Luna reported about the police not arresting looters  “ those things have been debriefed and they have been corrected.”  Luna added that “if that [looting] happens again right now tonight, I can almost assure you that [watching looters] would not occur again.”

These are the full transcripts of the question from Price and the answer from Luna (Timestamp 46:58):

Price;

“We’ve had a lot of conversations, I know in my district and probably throughout the city about how law enforcement makes the decision during the time of civil unrest in terms of whether to protect, you know and the peace, public safety as opposed to protecting property. One of the biggest concerns that we’ve gotten repeatedly is that people were watching images on TV and seeing police officers weren’t making arrests of folks that were running in and out of stores or causing unrest or participating in vandalism. Can you speak to that a little bit regarding priorities in that type of a situation.

Luna

“ Yes absolutely, I referred to it earlier in my opening comment. The preservation of life is our top priority. When you go into a situation like we did that day, we would love to not only preserve life, but the goal is for no business to be damaged. No business to be looted. But obviously, some of the tactics used. And again deciphering between the thousands of legitimate protestors with the criminal element that was mixed in there made it very chaotic out there. And I know that. I’ve seen some video of officers that were there not making arrests, and those are some of the adjustments we made.. There was no order from the top not to make arrests, but the Supervisors on scene didn’t feel that it was safe to do so at the time. Those are things that are being debriefed, and they were corrected, and if that happens again right now tonight, I can almost assure you that would not occur again.

Price: “OK. Great.”

The Bad: Luna’s ramblings

During Luna’s 2o minute oratory trying to explain the “complexities” and background of what he has been widely quoted as referring to as the “six hours of chaos”, Chief Luna goes off on tangents and rambling.  Here is an example of both.  

Speaking about the Saturday, May 30th  protests and looting in Los Angeles, Luna in a Trump-like-fashion takes exception to a news report that the Chief says was “trying to make our department look bad”. Even ignoring the fact that the only Wednesdays in 2020 that so far have been the 8th day are January 8th and April 8th, the rest of the information presented by Luna is so disconnected that whatever he is referring to cannot make the LBPD look as bad as what he has to say here ( Timestamp 23:10):

“I do want to take a little pause here because I do want to put something out. One of our local media outlets reported some bad information in trying to make our department look badI guess there is not another way to put it. They stated that, that the City of Los Angeles had declared, basically what we refer to as a Stage 3, which means everybody that works for the Police Department coming in on the first day that they had civil unrest. Civil unrest in the City of Los Angeles actually started on Wednesday the 8th. They didn’t go full mobilization of the Los Angeles Police Department until Saturday the 30th.  That’s when they were summonizing [sic] assistance through our Mutual Aid System in L.A. County. And Long Beach was there to assist them in there time of need.  And that is an important part of what I’ll be describing because when you help others in our system, eventually you need help yourself and that’s basically what occurred.”

The Ugly: Luna compares the May 31st events to the 1992 riots

One defense of LBPD officers standing and watching the looting from city leaders has been we’re sorry it happened, but it could have been worst.  That defense was taken to an extreme by Chief Luna during his committee comments. Luna compared the May 31st looting to the 1992 Rodney King Decision riots that spread to Long Beach.  Luna says that comparing them puts the Long Beach May 31st event into “context”.

Unlike the 1992 actual riots, the May 31st Long Beach Protest was not spontaneous or a surprise. Chief Luna in his statements said numerous times that his staff watched the May 2020 civil unrest grow across the nation and had time to prepare. The 1992 spontaneous  riots  started on April 29, 1992, in reaction to that day’s  not guilty verdict to the charges of using excessive force verdict for four Los Angeles Police Officers involved in the arrest and beating of Rodney King.   In 1992, there was no planned protest, no days of growing unrest to allow the police to prepare. The 1992 riots were immediate and spontaneous.  

This is how Chief Luna compared May 31st with 1992  for his premise of “context” (Timestamp 35:22):

“ And I also want to throw out there that in comparison when you look at 1992, the riots in Long Beach took two complete days to contain and bring under control with 1 dead and 361 people injured and 340 structures burned, Chief Espino will tell you we lost 1 structure to fire. And again I’m not trying to deemphasize how many of our businesses got looted, because that’s very, very important, but you’ve got to put this in context”.

The spontaneous 1992 riot quickly spread across Los Angeles County. In total  62 people were killed, 2,383 people were injured and over 12,000 arrested. Property damage from the riots was estimated to be $1 billion. In the aftermath, LAPD Chief Daryl Gates received most of the blame for his mismanagement during the riots. One major misstep of the LAPD was as the trial jury was deliberating and a verdict was expected,  two-thirds of the LAPD patrol captains were on a three-day training seminar out of town.

LUNA’S THEME SUMMARIES

Chief Luna’s opening statements and his answers to the Public Safety Committee’s questions revolved around similar themes that he had used before in his answers to Councilwomen Jeanine Pearce at the June 9, 2020 City Council meeting.  

Below THE Sunday REVIEW  takes Luna’s statements before the Public Safety committee and groups them into themes.

Protest Preparation: “to make sure that we were ready for anything that could happen.”

One thing the LBPD had was time to prepare for some type of civil unrest. Luna states that preparing for civil unrest started in April 2020. The Chief acknowledges LBPD preparing over and over in his remarks.

Chief Luna describes that the LBPD started to recognize that COVID 19  consequences might lead to unrest as early as April 2020:

“I do have to go back to April 6th. As you’re aware in the middle of a health emergency our police department was heavily involved in the emergency management side of things. And it was about that time that we started to ask ourselves hard questions here at the police department.   Not anticipating civil unrest due to any police misconduct really anywhere in the country. But it was more the unknown specifically with the business or economic scenarios that we may be facing as a country and what could possibly happen”

Chief Luna also describes a “special detail” for civil unrest that the  LBPD established that was lead by an unnamed Police Commander. The task of the  “special detail”  was to deliver a “comprehensive” plan  to prepare the LBPD a path for training “to make sure we were ready for anything that could happen” :

“So, on April 6th, 2020 our Command Staff had a meeting to discuss our department’s readiness for potential civil unrest.  So starting about a week later we special detailed the Police Commander and a couple of other employees who’s specific role was to prepare us to deliver comprehensive planning,  training, and preparation for our police department to make sure that we were ready for anything that could happen.”

All that early civil unrest preparation was  so far along, that the LBPD was actually planning a practice drill on Monday, June 1st, which would have been the day after the May 31st looting:

“As a matter of fact, on June 1st was our first scheduled hands-on drill that we were going to perform specifically for riot crowd control different scenarios that would pop up.”

When  George Floyd was killed on Memorial Day Monday May 25, Luna states that the LBPD started to monitor the protest events nation-wide connected to Floyd’s death:

But as you can imagine what happened on Memorial Day obviously happened and it set us forward in looking at what was going on around the country with civil unrest. It started with Minneapolis and then carries on to cities like Louisville and New York and other major cities across the country.

Luna’s statements for the Public Safety Committee point to ongoing preparation as the LBPD monitored protest events in other cities across the country and in Los Angeles:

  • “So I want to get right into several days leading up to the civil unrest that specifically hit the city of Long Beach.    That week we were very much monitoring what was going on around the country, Which continuously, we stepped up our efforts to make sure we that we were prepared.”
  • “On Wednesday, May 27th we started to observe that protest started to turn violent. In the City of Los Angeles several California Highway Patrol vehicles were attacked on the 101 Freeway.”
  • “On Thursday [May 28th] we continued to monitor our city first and everything around us. And all the information we had at that time was that the City of Long Beach itself had no scheduled protest and was not going to impacted.   But that did not stop us from paying attention to everything around us.”
  • “On Friday May 29th we as a Command Staff met at our Police Academy in the late afternoon as we started to observe the level of violence specifically in the City of Los Angeles was starting to increase. We were getting information about protests that were going to occur in the City of Huntington Beach and other cities around us.  And it was at that time that we became aware of  a protest that was scheduled  to take place in front of the Police Station at 400 W Broadway and off the information that we had at the time was that we could expect up to several hundred protesters that were going to protest in front of the station.”
  • “So on that day [May 29th]the Police Department activated its Department Operations Center and in that sense we brought in additional Command Staff that would: One, regularly give updates to any information that we had regarding an protest activity in the city; Two, continue to monitor  activity outside of the city to see how it would impact our city.”
  • “And then we went. We also had an Event Action Plan that was authored by a Commander to make sure we were probably preparing for just about anything that would happen.”
  • So now I’m at Saturday the 30th, the day before the civil unrest. We as a police department brought in additional resources that day above and beyond what we normally deploy.”
  • “We brought in many additional resources and as the day [May 30th] went on we still had no protest activity in the City of Long Beach. But that evening, if you remember, the City of L.A. really started to have significant challenges with violence.”

Despite watching the growing nightly protests that grew bigger every day and turned into looting in Los Angeles and elsewhere, the LBPD appears to not modify its initial Friday, May 29th assessment about the planned Sunday, May 31st Long Beach Protest: “the information that we had at the time was that we could expect up to several hundred protesters that were going to protest in front of the station.”

When the Long Beach Protest begins, the LBPD realizes it has way underestimated what was now happening. Chief Luna gives this assessment of what happened in Long Beach on May 31st:

“As this protest or event evolved. The hundreds of protesters we planned for turned out to be thousands of protesters. “

Despite the long build-up time to May 31st   and Luna’s statements of the LBPD observing the events around the country,   the LBPD was unprepared.

Luna cited numerous cities that were watched leading up to the Long Beach Protest:

  • “But as you can imagine what happened on Memorial Day obviously happened and it set us forward in looking at what was going on around the country with civil unrest. It started with Minneapolis and then carries on to cities like Louisville and New York and other major cities across the country.”
  • “That week we were very much monitoring what was going on around the country, Which continuously, we stepped up our efforts to make sure we that we were prepared.”
  • “On Wednesday, May 27th we started to observe that protest started to turn violent. In the City of Los Angeles several California Highway Patrol vehicles were attacked on the 101 Freeway.”
  • “On Friday, May 29th we as a Command Staff met at our Police Academy in the late afternoon as we started to observe the level of violence specifically in the City of Los Angeles was starting to increase. We were getting information about protests that were going to occur in the City of Huntington Beach and other cities around us.”
  • “That day [May 29th] as well we also made some operational changes in patrol and we started to assign two-person cars out there cause we did not want officers riding around on their own because some of the things we were hearing were happening around the country.”
  • “We brought in many additional resources and as the day [May 30th] went on we still had no protest activity in the City of Long Beach. But that evening, if you remember, the City of L.A. really started to have significant challenges with violence. Large protests, some of them turn violent, there was looting involved and sometime during the early evening,”

In his Public Safety Committee statements Luna continued to publicly praise his department and their planning. Luna explains that planning was  hampered by “complexities” the department had to deal with:

“But going back as part of the 31st. We had some of our best people planning and organizing our response. And I actually believe they did a very good job. Yes if we knew what we knew today, several weeks later 20/20 hindsight. Could we have done better? Potentially, but as you see me lay this out you’ll understand the complexities that we were dealing with and how much effort went in to protect our city.”

No “I” in Luna: Staff involved in preparation and decision making

As Chief of the Long Beach Police Department, Luna only places himself in his expansive narrative and answers about the May 31st events only once.  


Luna mentions himself only once with a lone “I” when he describes himself (“I”) as a witness in the room when his Assistant Chief did not give the order to not arrest looters:

“And  I want to make sure that I throw this out right now and it soundsI kind of had skipped this earlier, there are, I don’t know if you want to call them rumors, or statements that are made, that either the City Manager or the Mayor or somebody gave the Police Department direction not to make arrests,   not to arrest looters.  

That is absolutely false. I was in the room when the Assistant Chief gave direction. The priority was to protect life and critical infrastructure, to  facilitate a safe environment for persons lawfully exercising their 1st Amendment Rights, to provide a coordinated response to any unlawful activity related to crowd management, and try to manage calls for service throughout the  rest of the city as we could, as the night was going on.”

In that statement, Luna addresses the media reports of  LBPD officers saying that the orders to not arrest looters came from the top. Those from the top statements reported in the local media apparently were referring to either the Mayor, the City Manager, or Luna, or all three.


In his statement of reply, Chief Luna does not place himself among the top.  In his statement, Luna used the phrase “or somebody in the Police Department” after mentioning both the Mayor and the City Manager.  Later in his Price answer, Luna would point to  “somebody in the Police Department”,  his Supervisors:

“There was no order from the top not to make arrests, but the Supervisors on scene didn’t feel that it was safe to do so at the time. Those are things that are being debriefed, and they were corrected, and if that happens again right now tonight, I can almost assure you that would not occur again.”

Other notable mentions from Luna about the staff involved in planning and making decisions during the protest include:

  • So, on April 6th, 2020 our Command Staff had a meeting to discuss our departments readiness for potential civil unrest.  So starting about a week later we special detailed the Police Commander and a couple of other employees whose specific role was to prepare us to deliver comprehensive planning,  training, and preparation for our police department to make sure that we were ready for anything that could happen.”
  • “ On Friday, May 29th we as a Command Staff met at our Police Academy in the late afternoon as we started to observe the level of violence specifically in the City of Los Angeles was starting to increase. “
  • “So on that day [May 29th] the Police Department activated its Department Operations Center and in that sense we brought in additional Command Staff that would: One, regularly give updates to any information that we had regarding any protest activity in the city; Two, continue to monitor  activity outside of the city to see how it would impact our city. “
  • “We also had an Event Action Plan that was authored by a Commander to make sure we were probably preparing for just about anything that would happen”
  • “On top of having the Command Structure in place that would coordinate all resources that were here and additional resources  that were needed, which included working with our partners at the Fire Department to make sure we were on the same page in case we were to deploy together.  That was done through our Department Operations Center.”
  • “But going back as part of the 31st. We had some of our best people planning and organizing our response. And I actually believe they did a very good job.”
  • “The Field Commanders out in the field were making decisions, the scene assessing the risk to the public. The protestors and the officers and directing these resources as they felt necessary to protect life.”
  • “But, as I stated, the Commanders, Lieutenants and the Sergeants that were out there are directing the resources”
  • “It is extremely, extremely unfortunate that we had our businesses looted by thieves in the middle of this extreme chaos. And out Filed Commanders did the best they could prioritizing life over property. Although we absolutely hated seeing any of the looting, the Field Supervisors that were out there did not feel it was safe at that time to make arrests at that specific time.”

Protecting  Life, Liberty, and …

Political philosopher John Locke stated government’s duties were to protect the natural rights of Life, Liberty and Property.  Chief Luna, Mayor Garcia and City Manager Modica have emphasized that Long Beach during the violence on May 31st  was narrowly focused on only protecting life.

 Despite the city narrative of prioritizing protecting life, it is apparent from the Chief’s answer to Price during the Question-and-Answer session that the LBPD was capable of protecting both life and property during the Long Beach Protests:

 “ …those things have been debriefed and they have been corrected,   and if that happens again right now tonight, I can almost assure you that would not occur again.”

The problem with the prioritizing lives narrative from city leaders is the images from the television coverage of the looting.   What lives were being protected, how they were being protected and examples of which lives were protected are never explained with the often repeated phrase “priority to protect life” . The protection of lives is not evident in the images that show hundreds of police officers standing in lines watching the looting. 


 What Long Beach residents and businesses can infer from the city leaders’ narrative is that somehow allowing looting and not protecting property is the “priority to protect life”.   What they do not see how standing watching looting is what Chief Luna describes as the “tactics”  and “strategies” of prioritizing protecting life. 

Chief Luna does refer to “adjustments” to “tactics” and “strategies” when referring to changes in switching to arrests later in the evening.

These statements were made by Chief Luna concerning the decisions to not protect property until later in the evening:”

  • The Field Commanders out in the field were making decisions, the scene assessing the risk to the public. The protestors and the officers and directing these resources as they felt necessary to protect life.”
  • “Now we got to remember when we set our priorities its very clear that the protection of life is absolutely number one.”
  • “The priority was to protect life and critical infrastructure, to  facilitate a safe environment for persons lawfully exercising their 1st Amendment Rights, to provide a coordinated response to any unlawful activity related to crowd management, and try to manage calls for service throughout the  rest of the city as we could, as the night was going on.”
  • “And then again I want to emphasize in our priorities the preservation of life was our top priority.  It is extremely, extremely unfortunate that we had our businesses looted by thieves in the middle of this extreme chaos. And our Field Commanders did the best they could prioritizing life over property.”
  • “Although we absolutely hated seeing any of the looting, the Field Supervisors that were out there did not feel it was safe at that time to make arrests at that specific time. Now that changed hours later on into the event as we readjusted some of our strategies and tactics.”
  • “Our priority that night was the preservation of life. And so our biggest win that night was not having anyone get critically injured or killed.  And absolutely our biggest disappointment that night was the feeling that we failed our individual business owners and that was not a good feeling.”

Chief Luna’s statement to Price that in the Protest debriefing that those priorities (ie “things”) have been corrected: “those things have been debriefed and they have been corrected”.  In that statement, Chief Luna continues and refers to “some of the tactics used” by the LBPD and “some adjustments we made”.  Then referring to officers not protecting property in another similar case.  Luna states “I can almost assure you that would not occur again”.

The Numbers

Criticized for the lack of arrests especially for looting,  Luna never reveals the actual looting arrest number of 5 persons.  The Chief lumps those five looting arrests with the other 24 “bookings” the LBPD made that night:

“The other question that comes up is, when we started to make arrests.  And that started to occur probably, roughly, about 7:30 or 8:00 that night. We made 103 total arrests. Out of the 103 arrests, 74 of those were curfew violations, 29 of them were actual bookings.  And out of the 29 bookings, Twenty of these either looting, commercial burglary or burglary and nine were other related charges.”

In response to questions on policing number during the Public Safety Committee Chief Luna numerous times refused to give numbers related to police deployments:

” I also want to put out there that people have asked me specifically about how many Police Officers we had. It is the policy of this Police Department, and that is not going to change, not to talk about specific numbers of police officers that we put out there. But on a regular Sunday we have a certain allotment of officers during the time that this occurred. I could tell you this that we increased the number of officers on Sunday [May 31st] as we prepared for this event, by 648% or 7 times the normal amount of officers we normally deploy on a Sunday. That is a significant amount.”


Chief Luna does reveal this in the Question and Answer segment (timestamp  55:01):

Supernaw:

“How many LBPD officers were on duty Sunday, May 31st at 3 pm?”

Luna:

“Almost half of our Police Department was deployed that day.”


Using Luna’s percentage number and the fact he later states about half of the LBPD department was deployed on May 31st,  the deployment number can be estimated to be around 650 officers.  If you have 100 officers on patrol on a given night, 100 x .648 = 648 officers. 

Other numbers Luna reveals are in his statements:

The number of protesters expected: 700

  • “And it was at that time that we became aware of  a protest that was scheduled  to take place in front of the Police Station at 400 W Broadway and off the information that we had at the time was that we could expect up to several hundred protestors that were going to protest in front of the station.”

Estimate number of protesters: 5,000

  • As the chaos created by these smaller groups increased, so did the crowd.  The crowds just kept on getting bigger. We estimate that the total crowd size and crowd-sizing is not an easy thing to put your finger on, We estimate it was at least 5,000 if not more.  As the hundreds of Long Beach officers were dealing with this, several other groups started to loot several businesses.”
  • “As this protest or event evolved. The hundreds of protestors we planned for turned out to be thousands of protestors”. 

The number of “agitators”: several dozen:

  • “But unfortunately, the true spirit of the protest was hijacked by several dozen agitators who attacked our police officers with bottles and then damaged several police cars. These agitators used several thousand legitimate protestors as human shields as they damaged more property and continued to assault our officers.”

The number of Long Beach officers sent to Los Angeles during the Friday, May 29th looting and civil unrest: several dozen:

  • But that evening, if you remember, the City of L.A. really started to have significant challenges with violence. Large protests, some of them turn violent, there was looting involved and sometime during the early evening, the Emergency Operations Bureau for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reached out and polled us, which means were we ready to respond outside our city because we weren’t impacted at the time. And we sent several dozen of your Long Beach Officers to the City of Los Angeles to assist with what was going on in L.A.”

Percentage of those arrested from outside Long Beach: 55%

  • “And I know this question has been asked, but 55% of the people arrested were non-Long Beach residents.”

Luna’s Other statements

 On the Grand Prix fencing:

” So in regards to going back specifically to the 31st. There’s been a lot of questions out there from some of our community members because we put fencing around 400 West Broadway. Specifically, it was Grand Prix fencing and we were heavily criticized for that. I want everyone to please know that the reason we did that is we saw what was happening around the country and Police Stations seemed to be specific targets of the violent protests.  To the point where there was one in Minneapolis that was burned and several others that were attacked.  And I don’t know if everybody realizes this, but we have a men’s jail and a women’s jail in our building.  There is no more important function that when we take somebody into custody that we are obligated to protect them. We could not have people either destroying or burning this building because that would put the safety of everyone in custody at the time in this building, and that’s why that fencing went around, to protect them. I don’t know if that’s widely known. We tried to communicate that out. But that’s one of the reasons, or that is the reason primarily why we did that.”

On the National Guard:

Time stamp 1:05:37

Supernaw; “It was reported that the Mayor and the City Manager were involved in making the request for the National Guard, Do protocols allow LBPD to make that request without the Mayor or City Manager weighting in?”

Luna: “Yes, if we go through, again LA County Sheriff, that’s the way we request it, and then they determine the resources, cause if they can send us resources from other law enforcement agencies, the National Guard would not be needed. Now, your going to have to ask the Mayor this, I know that he has had conversations with the Governor and because they wanted to get us some help. And I know that both the City  Manager and Mayor were trying to do everything they could to help our city out and our Police Department.”

Luna’s Conclusion on A New Department and frustration with the current BLM conversations

In what can be described as a conclusion and insight into what Chief Luna may see as the ultimate problem in the May 31st response is that the LBPD has become a  new department with training designed to facilitate protests, but not a combined protest and looting scenario.  

Luna’s thoughts are revealed in this exchange with Councilman Supernaw including reflection on the national and local conversations that the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked:

(Timestamp 1:14:12)

 Supernaw:  “In the post-analysis has it been determined that LBPD was hit with strategies, tactics and numbers that were completely unanticipated and therefore no plan existed to deal with these tactics?”

Luna: “I wouldn’t agree that we had no plan. And we were not, cause the question has come up that we were unprepared for this. I think the dynamic is very different. And I think actually this is a very important question as we talk about the next topic, Use of Force. Because this department has remade itself in the last several years. Were a much better department than we ever have been. Really, this is, what does that mean? That means that a lot of our training, in the last several years and we get a whole lot of it, has been focused on de-escalation, I Can’t training. Procedural justice, implicit basis, when we deal with protestors it’s about accommodating them. We live in a different world. And all of a sudden on Sunday, we get a lot of legitimate protestors mixed in with people who are there to do nothing but create chaos, and again I want to clarify, not the majority of the protestors. There were individual groups creating chaos and violence. And its like getting in a ring with somebody, you want to give them a hug, give them a big kiss, cause you think you want to get along with them and then all of a sudden they break your nose. Well, you may fall on the ground, then you have to get up, and then it kind of turns the tables and we go in a different direction. That’s what I’ve been talking about this whole time.  So as we start talking about reducing the department. We start talking about defunding budgets. Your talking about police training. And we talked about the numbers I had, we start decreasing police departments, that means there are less cops out there, and when you have a scenario like this were the entire regions impacted, I think we as a city, all of you as policymakers need to take a very hard look at the path we are going to be on.”

THE TRANSCRIPT of Chief Luna’s opening statement to the Public Safety Committee:

(Time Stamp 16:55)

“…I do have to go back to April 6th. As you’re aware in the middle of a health emergency our police department was heavily involved in the emergency management side of things. And it was about that time that we started to ask ourselves hard questions here at the police department.   Not anticipating civil unrest due to any police misconduct really anywhere in the country. But it was more the unknown specifically with the business or economic scenarios that we may be facing as a country and what could possibly happen.

So, on April 6th, 2020 our Command Staff had a meeting to discuss our department’s readiness for potential civil unrest.  So starting about a week later we special detailed the Police Commander and a couple of other employees who’s specific role was to prepare us to deliver comprehensive planning,  training and preparation for our police department to make sure that we were ready for anything that could happen.

As a matter of fact, on June 1st was our first scheduled hands-on drill that we were going to perform specifically for riot crowd control different scenarios that would pop up. But as you can imagine what happened on Memorial Day obviously happened and it set us forward in looking at what was going on around the country with civil unrest. It started with Minneapolis and then carries on to cities like Louisville and New York and other major cities across the country.

So I want to get right into several days leading up to the civil unrest that specifically hit the city of Long Beach.    That week we were very much monitoring what was going on around the country, Which continuously, we stepped up our efforts to make sure we that we were prepared.

On Wednesday, May 27th we started to observe that protest started to turn violent. In the City of Los Angeles several California Highway Patrol vehicles were attacked on the 101 Freeway.

On Thursday [May 28th] we continued to monitor our city first and everything around us. And all the information we had at that time was that the City of Long Beach itself had no scheduled protest and was not going to impacted.   But that did not stop us from paying attention to everything around us.

On Friday, May 29th we as a Command Staff met at our Police Academy in the late afternoon as we started to observe the level of violence specifically in the City of Los Angeles was starting to increase. We were getting information about protests that were going to occur in the City of Huntington Beach and other cities around us.  And it was at that time that we became aware of  a protest that was scheduled  to take place in front of the Police Station at 400 W Broadway and off the information that we had at the time was that we could expect up to several hundred protestors that were going to protest in front of the station.

So on that day [May 29th]the Police Department activated its Department Operations Center and in that sense we brought in additional Command Staff that would: One, regularly give updates to any information that we had regarding any protest activity in the city; Two, continue to monitor  activity outside of the city to see how it would impact our city.

And then we went. We also had an Event Action Plan that was authored by a Commander to make sure we were probably preparing for just about anything that would happen.  That day [May 29th] as well we also made someoperational changes in patrol and we started to assign two-person cars out there cause we did not want officers riding around on their own because some of the things we were hearing were happening around the country.

So now I’m at Saturday the 30th, the day before the civil unrest. We as a police department brought in additional resources that day above and beyond what we normally deploy. On top of having the Command Structure in place that would coordinate all resources that were here and additional resources that were needed, which included working with our partners at the Fire Department to make sure we were on the same page in case we were to deploy together.  That was done through our Department Operations Center.

We brought in many additional resources and as the day [May 30th] went on we still had no protest activity in the City of Long Beach. But that evening, if you remember, the City of L.A. really started to have significant challenges with violence. Large protests, some of them turn violent, there was looting involved and sometime during the early evening, the Emergency Operations Bureau for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reached out and polled us, which means were we ready to respond outside our city because we weren’t impacted at the time. And we sent several dozen of your Long Beach Officers to the City of Los Angeles to assist with what was going on in L.A.

(Timestamp 23:10)

I do want to take a little pause here because I do want to put something out. One of our local media outlets reported some bad information in trying to make our department look badI guess there is no other way to put it. They stated that, that the City of Los Angeles had declared, basically what we refer to as a Stage 3, which means everybody that works for the Police Department coming in on the first day that they had civil unrest. Civil unrest in the City of Los Angeles actually started on Wednesday the 8th. They didn’t go full mobilization of the Los Angeles Police Department until Saturday the 30th.  That’s when they were summonizing [sic] assistance through our Mutual Aid System in L.A. County. And Long Beach was there to assist them in there time of need.  And that is an important part of what I’ll be describing because when you help others in our system, eventually you need help yourself and that’s basically what occurred.

So in regards to going back specifically to the 31st. There’s been a lot of questions out there from some of our community members because we put fencing around 400 West Broadway. Specifically, it was Grand Prix fencing and we were heavily criticized for that. I want everyone to please know that the reason we did that is we saw what was happening around the country and Police Stations seemed to be specific targets of the violent protests.  To the point where there was one in Minneapolis that was burned and several others that were attacked.  And I don’t know if everybody realizes this, but we have a men’s jail and a women’s jail in our building.  There is no more important function that when we take somebody into custody that we are obligated to protect them. We could not have people either destroying or burning this building because that would put the safety of everyone in custody at the time in this building, and that’s why that fencing went around, to protect them. I don’t know if that’s widely known. We tried to communicate that out. But that’s one of the reasons, or that is the reason primarily why we did that.

(Timestamp 25:52)

But going back as part of the 31st. We had some of our best people planning and organizing our response. And I actually believe they did a very good job. Yes if we knew what we knew today, several weeks later 20/20 hindsight. Could we have done better? Potentially, but as you see me lay this out you’ll understand the complexities that we were dealing with and how much effort went in to protect our city.

As this protest or event evolved. The hundreds of protestors we planned for turned out to be thousands of protestors.  Many of them, most of them were peaceful and I’ve got to say something about us historically, This Police Department is very successful at managing protests. We go out of the way to facilitate 1st Amendment activity. Which usually means we make contact with the protestors. We find out what their goal is and we basally facilitate, which means we may even sometimes block traffic. We may let them take intersections, ignore minor vehicle code violations. Again, for the purposes of getting out the message and we thought that this message was a good one.

But unfortunately the true spirit of the protest was hijacked by several dozen agitators who attacked our police officers with bottles and then damaged several police cars. These agitators  used several thousand legitimate protestors as human shields as they damaged more property and continued to assault our officers.

(Timestamp 27:41)

And again, when I talk about police officers sometimes people talk about what is happening across the country. I’m talking about the officers that work each of your districts every day, that come to work and work hard with our community.

The agitators that I keep referring to were taking broken pieces of cement. Bottles, some of them filled with acid and urine. Feces. And they were throwing them at our officers.

As the chaos created by these smaller groups increased, so did the crowd.  The crowds just kept on getting bigger. We estimate that the total crowd size and crowd-sizing is not an easy thing to put your finger on, We estimate it was at least 5,000 if not more.  As the hundreds of Long Beach officers were dealing with this, several other groups started to loot several businesses.

The Field Commanders out in the field were making decisions, the scene assessing the risk to the public. The protestors and the officers and directing these resources as they felt necessary to protect life.

Now we got to remember when we set our priorities it’s very clear that the protection of life is absolutely number one.

(TimeStamp 29:00)

And  I want to make sure that I throw this out right now and it soundsI kind of had skipped this earlier, there are, I don’t know if you want to call them rumors, or statements that are made, that either the City Manager or the Mayor or somebody gave the Police Department direction not to make arrests,   not to arrest looters.  That is absolutely false. I was in the room when the Assistant Chief gave direction, The priority was to protect life and critical infrastructure, to  facilitate a safe environment for persons lawfully exercising their 1st Amendment Rights, to provide a coordinated response to any unlawful activity related to crowd management, and try to manage calls for service throughout the  rest of the city as we could, as the night was going on.

But, as I stated, the Commanders, Lieutenants and the Sergeants that were out there are directing the resources.  It was very chaotic out there. A lot of things happening at the same time. And just to give you an example, our calls for service increased 171% that night. They went from what is an average of 1,726 to 4,686.  That’s a significant amount. And then again I want to emphasize in our priorities the preservation of life was our top priority.  It is extremely, extremely unfortunate that we had our businesses looted by thieves in the middle of this extreme chaos. And out Filed Commanders did the best they could prioritizing life over property. Although we absolutely hated seeing any of the looting, the Field Supervisors that were out there did not feel it was safe at that time to make arrests at that specific time. Now that changed hours later on into the event as we readjusted some of our strategies and tactics.

I also want to put out there that people have asked me specifically about how many Police Officers we had. It is the policy of this Police Department, and that is not going to change, not to talk about specific numbers of police officers that we put out there. But on a regular Sunday, we have a certain allotment of officers during the time that this occurred. I could tell you this that we increased the number of officers on Sunday [May 31st] as we prepared for this event, by 648% or 7 times the normal amount of officers we normally deploy on a Sunday. That is a significant amount.

And what I’ll do in a couple of minutes, I’ll gonna go through a timeline kind of like the Fire Chief did about what we did at what time, at what time.

(Timestamp 32:25)

The other question that comes up is, when we started to make arrests.  And that started to occur probably, roughly, about 7:30 or 8:00 that night. We made 103 total arrests. Out of the 103 arrests, 74 of those were curfew violations, 29 of them were actual bookings.  And out of the 29 bookings, Twenty of these either looting, commercial burglary or burglary and nine were other related charges.

And I know this question has been asked, but 55% of the people arrested were non-Long Beach residents.  I know that question has come up several times. So over half of the people were not from our city.  But unfortunately, we did have some people in our city who were opportunists and unfortunately went out and started to do some looting. And I made this statement at the previous council meeting. That, although I’m giving you a more detailed than I did that night.

Our priority that night was the preservation of life, And so our biggest win that night was not having anyone get critically injured or killed.  And absolutely our biggest disappointment that night was the feeling that we failed our individual business owners and that was not a good feeling.

(Timestamp 34:00)

But I do want to emphasize this point. Is that since May 31st, or I’m sorry, let me go back to May 31st. On May 31st, and when I looked at the timeframe of when things were extremely chaotic, it was approximately between 4 pm and we were estimating about 10 pm when things we were able to better gain control of the scenario across the city as more and more law officers were coming in from the area including the National Guard. That was 6 hours of chaos. And nobody in this Police Department, or this city, or any of you as policymakers, I wish that would have been zero.

But if you look at other major cities and the experience they had with civil unrest, most big cities experienced multiple days of civil unrest with significant violence, looting, damage and arson.  And again, were, look, I’m not trying to deemphasize the importance of what we had, cause it was horrible. 

(Timestamp 35:22)

And I also want to throw out there that in comparison when you look at 1992, the riots in Long Beach took two complete days to contain and bring under control with 1 dead and 361 people injured and 340 structures burned, Chief Espino will tell you we lost 1 structure to fire. And again I’m not trying to deemphasize how many of our businesses got looted, because that’s very, very important, but you’ve got to put this in context.

I also want to point out that when I keep talking about the six hours that occurred on the 31st that our team made adjustments, they quickly made adjustments to our strategies to making arrests, doing several things that started turning the tide.  And I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our Command Staff for making those modifications and that is exactly why I believe.  One. It only lasted six hours instead of 1 or two days like most other cities experienced.  And I also want to point out that since May 31st, our city has had 60 protests, that’s 6, 0. And your officers have done an amazing job of facilitating    1st Amendment rights while preventing any other civil unrest. 

So I am going to pause there.”

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