By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday unanimously approved a report from LAPD on how the department handled protesters ahead of the controversial Echo Park Lake homeless encampment cleanup that occurred in March.

FILE — Several protesters are arrested after clashing with LAPD officers during a demonstration against the closure of Echo Park Lake homeless camps. March 25, 2021. (CBSLA)

An after-action report from the LAPD issued Friday determined that the department was at fault for how it handled the demonstrations.

On the night of March 25, about 180 people were arrested during a massive protest against the removal of a large-scale homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake and the park’s indefinite closure to clean up an estimated $500,000 in damage.

During the protest, officers used bean bags and less-lethal launchers to control the crowd.
However, the L.A. City Attorney later said those arrested would not be charged for failing to disperse.

Multiple media members were detained during the round-up, including a reporter for the L.A. Times and two reporters for Knock LA, but all were later released.

In its report, the LAPD said it needs a better system for tracking the use of projectiles on crowds, and for dealing with the rise in independent journalists and “observers,” and may need “a formal policy or specific guidance regarding what actions field supervisors and officers should take when (they) detain someone at the scene of an unlawful assembly.”

At its peak, the LAPD deployed 750 officers to Echo Park to close the park and respond to protests. The cost to pay officers’ salaries and overtime, as well as cost of “services rendered” by the LAPD during the closure on March 24 and 25 was about $1.3 million. The department spent about $740,000 during the cleanup on March 26 and 27.

During the protests, officers reported using five rounds of the 40 mm “less-lethal” launchers, six rounds of the 37mm “less-lethal” launchers and 12 rounds of bean bag “less-lethal” launchers.

The department’s report alleged that “many activists double as online reporters for alternative news sources” and that they “expect to be given free access during crowd control situations, while antagonizing officers and impeding police action.”

The report also urged the city to make the full staffing of park rangers a top priority and says many of the problems at the March 25 protest might have been avoided if the encampment had not been allowed to grow so large.

Echo Park Lake reopened to the public on May 26 after being cleared of homeless encampments and undergoing two months of repairs. The park underwent $600,000 in repairs. More than 35 tons of solid waste and 723 pounds of biological waste – including 30 pounds of drug paraphernalia like needles and three firearms, various knives, and machetes – were removed from the park.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)