L.A. Riot Victims File Claims For Poor Police Protection

HUNDREDS of Los Angeles riot victims have filed damage claims against the city, state, and county, charging that inadequate police protection led to injuries and business losses.

The city's senior assistant attorney, Thomas Hokinson, said state law and court precedent guarantee government agencies immunity from such claims. But an attorney for some victims suggested that an independent commission report blasting police handling of the riot could change that.

About 800 claims had been filed by Friday, and hundreds more will be filed before today's deadline, said Stewart Kwoh, director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which is working with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and a number of other groups in organizing the filings.

Victims must lodge complaints before they can sue, although not everyone who files a claim follows up with a lawsuit if the claim is denied.

Mr. Hokinson said state law declares that no government agency can be sued for insufficient police protection.

A state appeals court in 1969 upheld that position by denying damage claims arising from Los Angeles's 1965 Watts riots.

But Mr. Kwoh said a report issued Wednesday by William Webster, former FBI and CIA director, and Hubert Williams, president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, supports claims of government negligence.

"Neither the city nor the LAPD had a real plan for what to do in this emergency," the report says.

"This is really the first step in continuing the investigation into why everything broke down," Kwoh said of the filings.

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