By Duke Helfand, Patrick McGreevy and Andrew Blankstein
Times Staff Writers
1:43 PM PDT, May 7, 2007
Two high-ranking command officers in the Los Angeles Police Department are expected to be reassigned for their role in overseeing the police response to last week's MacArthur Park immigration rally, sources familiar with the situation said today.
Deputy Chief Cayler "Lee" Carter Jr., commanding officer of Operations Central Bureau, and Cmdr. Louis Gray, the No. 2 official in the bureau, face the personnel action amid the continuing fallout from an incident that left 10 people injured.
Carter did not return phone calls midday today and Gray declined comment when reached at his office.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Chief William J. Bratton and Police Commission President John Mack are scheduled to announce the actions at a 3:30 p.m. news conference at City Hall. The LAPD command staff is expected to be told at 1:45.
Mack, who is receiving daily briefings from Bratton, did not confirm the moves but said some reassignments would be "a very positive sign." He said he expects a number of police officials to face action.
"This is the beginning, not the end," Mack said. "There are various investigations still ongoing."
Just as a peaceful immigrant rights May Day march was winding down in MacArthur Park, a group of agitators began throwing rocks and bottles at a perimeter of officers dressed in riot gear. Around 6:15 p.m., officers began closing in to clear the park, using batons and firing more than 140 rounds of foam and rubber projectiles. Targets included protesters and television reporters who had been covering the protest.
The violence created a furor among immigrants groups and civil rights advocates as images of the incident were beamed almost instantly around the world.
Villaraigosa and Bratton have come under heavy pressure to take decisive action, and both have promised to hold the department and themselves accountable.
Carter, a 33-year LAPD veteran and one of the department's eight deputy chiefs, was on the scene at MacArthur Park during Tuesday's protests and was ultimately the person in charge of police, one source said.
As the commanding officer of Operations Central Bureau, he is responsible for the deployment of 1,700 sworn and civilian personnel who serve more than 1 million people living in an area the size of Washington, D.C., according to his biography on the LAPD website. During his three decades in the LAPD, the Los Angeles native has been the commanding officer of the Risk Management Group, West Valley Area, Internal Affairs Group, and Newton Patrol Division, the website said. He also has worked numerous other assignments throughout the city, including the Organized Crime Intelligence Division and Operations-South Bureau Narcotics.
Carter can be bumped down to a commander-level position under city Civil Service rules, one source said. Gray, who has been with the department for 39 years, was the second in command at MacArthur Park. He would have been responsible for tactical decisions made on the scene. He will be transferred out of the Central Bureau command.
The Central Bureau encompasses 65 square miles, and includes MacArthur Park, the Rampart area, the downtown business district, Eagle Rock, the garment district, Dodger Stadium and Griffith Park. It services some of the city's most crowded and crime-plagued neighborhoods, whose residents are among the most ethnically and culturally diverse in the city.
The action, coming less than a week since the incident, encouraged Ramona Ripston, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
"I certainly do appreciate the swift action of the chief," Ripston said.
Meanwhile, the political pressure increased today with the announcement by City Council President Eric Garcetti that he is forming a special task force to monitor the progress of the investigation and provide an extra layer of oversight.
The task force will hear reports on the investigations pursued concurrently by the Police Department and by the Office of the Investigator General. It will also provide a forum where members of the public can express their views and concerns on the confrontation and the investigations, and it will provide policy recommendations for the future encounters between the police, protesters and news media.
"The freedom of the people to assemble is a cornerstone of our democracy," Garcetti said. "The freedom of the press to operate without encumbrance is a cornerstone of our democracy. And the openness and the accountability of our institutions are cornerstones of our democracy. We have allowed those first two freedoms to come to harm. The health of our city depends even more now on our swift action, rigorous investigation, and on our conduct of the people's business in broad daylight.''
Councilmen Jack Weiss and Ed Reyes will chair the task force. It will include council members Wendy Greuel, Jan Perry and Jose Huizar.