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600 more police for tense LA

WHILE jurors continued deliberating in the Rodney King beating trial, police in a tense Los Angeles yesterday stepped up their presence on the streets after an Easter weekend in which the city's churches resounded with appeals for peace.

Police stood guard on the roofs of some police stations in the more volatile areas, while other buildings were fortified with sandbags and water-filled drums.

Los Angeles police, still under fire for their lack of preparation for last year's riots, have begun cancelling days off and redeploying staff to put as many as 600 additional officers on duty. Some 5,000 troops from the California National Guard have been made available.

But there is concern that the growing police presence is more likely to provoke trouble than if the four Los Angeles police officers, who are now accused of violating Mr King's civil rights, walk free again. The Rev Benjamin Chavis, newly elected leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, yesterday questioned the build-up of 'military apparatus' and warned of the risk that the security forces could go 'too far and provoke unrest'.

Inside the federal courthouse in central LA, the jury, which includes two blacks and a Hispanic, created a flurry of speculation on Sunday after asking for a transcript of the testimony of Melanie Singer, a California Highway Patrol officer, a defence witness who broke down in tears twice as she described Mr King's beating. The US District Judge, John Davies, turned down the request, saying that providing transcripts 'tends to emphasise the testimony of one witness over another'.