British riot expert to advise LA police

Click to follow
The Independent Online
(First Edition)

LOS ANGELES police have hired a former Scotland Yard commander, Alex Marnoch, to advise them, in the wake of the Rodney King affair, writes Ken Hyder.

Mr Marnoch, who was posted to Brixton in south London after the 1981 riots there, flew out to Los Angeles yesterday at the request of Willie Williams, who replaced Daryl Gates, the officer in charge at the time of Mr King's beating.

Mr Marnoch, who was a public-order specialist at the Yard and headed the Metropolitan Police's Plus Programme designed to improve police-public relations, will advise Los Angeles police on how to set up a programme aimed at changing officers' attitudes.

Last December, Mr Marnoch visited south central Los Angeles. He said: 'The big difference (from Brixton) was the organised gangs with firearms. Speaking to leaders of the black and Hispanic communities the attitude was the same as in Brixton. They didn't want there to be any more riots.

'And the police I spoke to indicated a willingness to change, although some said 'We're fighting a war against gangs'. I told them that you can never win it on your own. You alienate the community. They have a them-and-us situation, with the cops living in nice areas and driving 70 miles to work.'

He believes that organisations are most likely to change direction once they have endured a dramatic crisis. 'In Los Angeles, the police have had that crisis in the King affair. I believe they now have the desire to change.'