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Scottsdale Police Department training and planning deficiencies hampered mall looting response

Scottsdale looting
Posted at 8:29 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 19:30:01-04

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Scottsdale police officers received new training on how to handle protests and riots after the looting at Scottsdale Fashion Square last year.

That's according to the city's Civil Unrest After Action Report, which ABC15 obtained through a public records request. An After Action Report is a critical summary and analysis of a major event, created to re-assess decisions, find weaknesses and consider alternatives for the future.

It was a bad night for security cameras to go on the fritz as rioters smashed their way into Scottsdale Fashion Square after 10 p.m. on May 30, 2020. According to the after action report, Scottsdale police can remotely monitor the mall's cameras, but the system was down for hours that night. The communications failure limited the ability to pinpoint looters and deploy officers.

As part of the review, Scottsdale officers were asked whether they had received adequate training. Many responded that their training was either insufficient or it occurred too long ago. In particular, the report mentioned needs in pepper ball or grenadier munitions use, Mobile Field Force, Rapid Response Teams, and strike teams.

The officers also said they needed new gas masks and shields.

Scottsdale's report uncovered failed social media intelligence before the crowds gathered. The department's existing surveillance system looked at keywords, and it did not detect when protesters and looters cut-and-pasted images promoting the event.

Supervisors had prepared for only 100 protesters that night, but hundreds of people came. When Scottsdale police called for backup from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, troopers were initially unable to come because they were working to protect the Arizona Capitol. No all-call was made for all Scottsdale officers to report.

In the year since the riot, Scottsdale increased training, reorganized communications functions, and retooled how they gather intelligence through social media and community contacts.

Police Chief Alan Rodbell retired about six months after the unrest. He had faced criticism, in part for the lack of arrests on the night of the looting. Rodbell had explained arrests were not prioritized due to staffing and safety issues.

The after-action report concluded there was significant property damage, but no significant injuries during the looting and rioting.

Scottsdale police eventually arrested 77 people, and officers recovered more than $234,000 in property from the looting, according to the report.