The Santa Monica Police Department released new information Wednesday in an effort to provide an update on matters relating to the May 31 civil unrest.
SMPD’s Chief Cynthia Renaud is set to retire from the department in less than a week after facing months of significant criticism for the department’s response to protests and looting in the city. But before she heads to assume the presidency of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Renaud signed a letter this week that details how the Santa Monica Police Department is committed to learning and growing from the May incidents.
Since the peaceful protest for racial justice and significant looting occurred in the Downtown area, Santa Monicans have been promised two reports about the incident. The first was supposed to be an after-action report listing the timeline and facts, and the second would provide analysis of the facts. City officials said publicly that the first report would be finished in August of this year but the police department said it was unable to prepare the document and handle regular police work.
In response, council authorized staff to hire a third party company to combine both reports into a single document. But Renaud said in this week’s letter that SMPD has already identified several areas for improvement, “and is quickly taking steps to adjust to the ever-changing policing landscape.”
“The events of May 31, 2020, proved to be an incredible environment of competing challenges in the departments’ efforts to secure life and safety, properties and businesses… As officers were responding to address looting calls, they were often redirected by citizens or officers calling for help in the face of physical harm,” so the Santa Monica Police Department ultimately prioritized life and personal safety, the letter states.
Renaud and the department believe the future OIR report will show that the totality of that day was comprised of three, separate events that converged on the city simultaneously. This resulted in the City of Santa Monica experiencing mass civil unrest for the first time in its history, according to the update.
“Although the Santa Monica Police Department was resourced and trained to handle protests and riotous activity that might erupt from within that protest, it was the third new and unexpected event that required time and personnel to adapt and overcome. This third event involving bands of suspects engaged in well-coordinated criminal enterprise exploiting the protests occurring throughout the city to commit acts of looting in multiple areas taxed the department’s resources in the initial hours of its instigation. While the department has response plans and resources in place to mitigate each of these three separately, it was the descension of all three upon the city at the same time that created the true crisis.”
SMPD has already begun implementing measures they can take to ensure similar instances don’t happen again in the future, and officers are hard at work investigating to find the individuals responsible for the chaos.
To date, there have been 22 felony arrests and the department is pursuing 120 active cases that still have workable leads. Officers are also busy with the large portion of body camera footage that still needs to be reviewed, according to department officials. In total, there have been 306 total incidents related to the civil unrest. Nearly 75 percent of the incidents were acts of non-residential looting or crimes related to vandalism.
“The SMPD is committed to learning from this event and adopting any best practices brought to light as a result of the inquiry,” the letter states. “To our community, we want to reiterate that we are committed to constitutional policing, procedural justice and transparency.”