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Police Faced "Terrible Dilemma" During Looting Rampage, Mayor Says
By Jorge Casuso
June 4, 2020 --- In his first public exchange since violence erupted in Santa Monica Sunday, Mayor Kevin McKeown defended the Police Department's decision not to confront those who looted Downtown stores.
In comments made during Wilmont's monthly meeting Tuesday, McKeown said Police Chief Cynthia Renaud was faced with a "terrible dilemma" -- control an increasingly violent demonstration near the Pier or attempt to stop the looters.
The mayor said police had limited forces to control the thousands of protesters and organized looters that descended on the beach city Sunday afternoon ("Santa Monica Demonstration Turns Violent, Looters Ransack Stores," June 1, 2020).
As a result, bands of looters freely swept through rows of stores in Santa Monica's central business district for nearly four hours as news crews captured the dramatic images that were aired live.
"We couldn't have sent our police into the middle of that because with hundreds of people running around we only had 100 officers," said McKeown.
"The hundred officers, had they gone into the middle of Downtown, would have been followed by innocent marchers and would have confronted the looters with very little chance of stopping them."
Confronting the looters -- who arrived in getaway cars armed with crowbars and drills -- could have resulted in people dying, the Mayor said.
"The thing I'm most grateful for about Sunday is we got out of that without loss of life," McKeown told the neighborhood group.
"Think about if the officers had charged into the Downtown and tried to stop those looters," he said.
"We could have ended up with a shootout in a shoe store, and as much as I hated seeing those boxes of sneakers all over the sidewalk, it was better than seeing bodies on the sidewalk."
Police, he said, were also concerned that a standoff with protesters at the foot of the pier could turn more violent.
"They were right near the pier with some very valuable assets that could have been set on fire," McKeown said.
The Mayor, who did not attend the press conferences the City held Sunday night, noted that other law enforcement agencies were on hand, but said that National Guard troops were late in arriving.
Police Chief Cythia Renaud was "autonomous" during the emergency, said McKeown, who touted her credentials as incoming president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which he said is "a big deal."
"I really hesitate to jump to the conclusion that many people have that she was incompetent," McKeown said.
"She may have been faced with an impossible situation, and the fact that we got out of that without loss of life or just serious injury is really remarkable," McKeown said.
A petition to remove Renaud had garnered more than 38,000 signatures as of 2 p.m. Thursday ("Petition Circulates to Recall Santa Monica Police Chief After Rampant Looting," June 1, 2020).
A total of 347 damage reports were recorded by the City on Monday, including 292 reports of damage to retail businesses, with 155 reporting significant damage ("More Than 150 Santa Monica Businesses Report "Significant Damage" from Sunday's Violence," June 2, 2020).
Police made 438 arrests on Sunday and 41 on Monday for looting, violating curfew, burglary and assault, McKeown said.
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