How the LAPD reported the protests

Data from the police describes events that clash with protesters' accounts, video footage

Police clash with protesters los angeles


The recent protests against police brutality that took place across Los Angeles were themselves marked by numerous instances of police brutality –– from officers delivering blows with batons to firing rubber bullets into crowds. 


But the Los Angeles Police Department’s own records paint a different picture: the officers were the victims. 


The LAPD reported 53 separate instances in which police officers were the victims of assaults with deadly weapons over the weekend of May 29-31, the period of the most intense protests. Of those 53 incidents, one described the weapon as a bottle, 10 specified a rock or other thrown object and 32 were “unknown weapon/other weapon.”


The LAPD data doesn’t specify how many of these incidents were specifically related to protests. However, 45 of the 53 occurred in neighborhoods where large demonstrations took place: Downtown, Fairfax, Mid-Wilshire and Beverly Grove. There were also four cases of officers being assaulted with a firearm that occurred in Venice, away from the larger protests.


LAPD’s account of assaults against its officers


Thirty-eight of these incidents occurred on Saturday May 30. That is the highest number of assaults with a deadly weapon on a police officer in a single day ever reported by the LAPD since it started making its data publicly available in 2010.


The LAPD’s version of the narrative that emerges from the data is at odds with how the events were described by protesters, many of whom recorded videos of use of force by officers clad in riot gear. In one video, LAPD officers ram a car into several protesters. In another, several officers surround a woman and tase her. Police also fired rubber bullets, bloodying the eye of a man in a wheelchair.


Crosstown pieced together data from arrests, crime reports and other sources to understand how the LAPD documented its own official record of the protests. In several areas, the data the police made public appears to be incomplete, such as the official tally of arrests. 


The LAPD’s response to the protests, sparked by the May 25 murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, has been under intense public scrutiny. The department has opened 56 internal affairs investigations into police conduct at the protests. So far, seven officers have been taken off of field duty while inquiries  proceed. 


How many handcuffed? 

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at a Police Commission meeting on June 2 that approximately  2,500 protesters had been arrested for failure to disperse and curfew violations since Floyd’s death. But even more than two weeks after the protests, the LAPD does not have an official total. 


As of June 15, the LAPD’s publicly available data showed 370 total arrests across the City of Los Angeles from May 29 – 31. Of those, 161 arrests were made in the areas where the most intense protests took place – Fairfax, Beverly Grove, Downtown and Mid-Wilshire. There were 107 arrests for looting and just two for curfew violations, although additional incidents occurred in a few other neighborhoods.


LAPD’s data on arrests near the protests

Crimes during the protests

According to an LAPD spokesperson, the gaps in the data are the result of the chaotic process that unfolded during those days. The arrest citations were written out by hand and had to be collected from officers from numerous different bureaus. The vast majority of the arrests still must be entered into the LAPD’s database by civilian employees, most of whom are working from home. 


The arrest records the LAPD has so far are only for those who were formally booked at a police station –– often for the more serious charges of looting. Protesters who were cited for more minor offenses, such as curfew violations, were given a “release from custody” citation. Though the process is similar to receiving a traffic ticket, it still counts as an arrest. 


Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer has said he will not prosecute anyone who was arrested for violating curfew. So far, his office has charged only seven people in connection with crimes stemming from the protests. 


Still, many protesters who were arrested during that period are caught in limbo. Theresa Tallman attended protests Downtown on Friday, May 29. She found herself pinned up against City Hall by a cordon of police, and blocked there for hours. She was eventually released at 2 a.m. with the charge of failure to obey a lawful order from a police officer. That is not one of the charges that the city attorney has said he is planning on dismissing. Which means Tallman, along with others arrested that night, have a court date. 


A brief spike in crime

Although the vast majority of protests in Los Angeles have been peaceful, Fairfax, Downtown and Beverly Grove all had reports of property damage and looting. 


According to  LAPD data, reports of crime spiked in both Fairfax and Beverly Grove on May 30, the same day that Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County and brought in the National Guard.


A brief jump in crime reports

crime spikes during protests


In Fairfax  that day, a peaceful demonstration of more than 10,000 began to erupt into several pockets of violence, as patrol cars were set ablaze, shop windows were shattered and some stores were looted. Reports of crime in Downtown LA saw a similar uptick the day before, on May 29, the same day that protesters stood off against the LAPD and shut down the 110 Freeway


The top crimes in the City of Los Angeles that the LAPD noted that weekend were burglary and felony vandalism, followed by reports of stolen vehicles, which had already been high before the protests.


The LAPD has been criticized for aggressively confronting protesters, while at the same time stepping back as stores were being broken into just yards away.


How we did it: We examined publicly available LAPD arrest data from May 29-31, as well as publicly available LAPD crime data from the same period. Learn more about our data here.


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