19 Aug 2014
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Police Chief Remembers L.A. Riots

Police Chief Joe Payne recalls how the L.A. Riots affected South Pas and surrounding cities. Where were you?

Police Chief Remembers L.A. Riots

Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the , which were sparked by the acquittal of four LAPD officers who were accused of brutally beating Rodney King in 1991.

On April 29, 1992 and over the next six days, Los Angeles exploded into a frenzy of violence, looting, arson and murder that began in what was then predominantly black South-Central L.A.

Luckily, South Pasadena was free from any fatal accidents. But the city's and  departments were still working around the clock responding to vandalism calls, out-of-hand parties, and smells of smoke. 

who has served on South Pas police force since 1972, recalls what went down in South Pasadena: 

We had maybe a half dozen vandalism calls. The  call was some sidewalk furniture thrown through the front window. No arrests were made. This was the most significant damage in dollar figures. Some car windows were broken out and some spray paint graffiti. 

Over the worst two days we made about 30 felony arrests, a typical total for a month. Most were weapons violations, grand theft, auto theft, and commercial burglary. There were about a dozen arrests for outstanding felony warrants.

Our entire department was put on Tactical Alert for three days officers worked 12-hour shifts. Half our full patrol deployment was on duty at any given time.

We discovered there was a lot of traffic running up and down the 110 freeway between South Los Angeles and Pasadena. We were able to intercept much of that traffic and made many of those arrests in that fashion.

We did not send any personnel to Los Angeles but responded to a lot of mutual aid calls to LAPD's Northeast (Highland Park) and Hollenbeck (El Sereno) divisions.

We did not experience any fires in town but the fire department handled many calls for smell of smoke from the fires in downtown L.A.

We assisted Pasadena Police Department with mutual aid over the three days. They were very busy in their northwest area. At one party call that got out of hand, a bystander who was standing on a balcony in Pasadena was killed by a stray bullet and one officer had a bullet ricochet off his riot helmet.

Out modern day Mutual Aid system where the county is divided into eight mutual aid areas was born out of the confusion of officers from many different departments responding to assist Los Angeles, Long Beach, and the southeast cities of Los Angeles County that endured the worst of the unrest. The existing system coordinates mutual aid response from a single coordinating agency within each mutual aid area.

Check back with Patch Sunday for an interview with the owners of Buster's, whose coffee shop was thrashed during the riots.  


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