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Report: Charlottesville Police failed to protect public safety during August rally

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WSET) - The former U.S. attorney who has been investigating the protests and rallies in Charlottesville has released his findings.

Tim Heaphy was hired by the city to investigate the following events:

He hosted a press conference Friday morning.

"This wasn't a football game. This wasn't the worden street block party. This wasn't the dalai lama visiting. It was an event where people were bent on hurting each other," Heaphy said.

"Today, we are a fractured city ... We hope that an honest pursuit of the issues identified in this report leads to more informed discussion, increased understanding, and a more unified Charlottesville," Heaphy writes in the report.

The report of the events is more than 200 pages and details what happened during each event, what went right, and what Heaphy feels went wrong.

He lists the following as "what went wrong" during the deadly Unite the Right rally in August:

  • Charlottesville Police did not seek input from law enforcement personnel experienced in handling similar events
  • Charlottesville Police did not provide adequate training or information to officers in advance of the event
  • The city waited too long to request the specialized assistance of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management
  • Charlottesville City Council unduly interfered with operation planning by directing that the event be moved to McIntire Park just days in advance
  • Charlottesville did not provide adequate information to the public about plans for the event
  • City planners mistakenly believed that they could not limit the possession of certain items used as weapons at the Unite the Right event
  • The owners of private property adjacent to Emancipation Park refused access to their facilities, which hampered law enforcement response during the event
  • The University of Virginia Police Department refused multiple offers of mutual aid assistance from the Charlottesville Police Department, resulting in violent encounters that emboldened protesters at the Unite the Right rally
  • Charlottesville Police implemented a flawed operational plan that failed to protect public safety on Aug. 12

According to Heaphy, the actions of the Charlottesville Police Department were a disaster.

The report shows it took 40 minutes to declare an unlawful assembly to disperse the crowds.

"The chief actually said no let them fight. Let them fight it will be easier to declare an unlawful assembly," Heaphy said.

Citizens of Charlottesville made their frustrations known, and severl spoke up during the question and answer section.

"There's a lot of investigation that you're being paid for that you're not investigating, becasue they're plenty of evidence that you did not use," one woman said.

The report included about 150 interviews, almost 500,000 documents, 300 hours of video, and 2,000 pictures.

Heaphy says Charlottesville police officers agreed they could have done more, but had orders not to get involved.

"I hear things like. We were prevented from doing police work," he said.

After going through the ups and downs of each event, the report goes through several recommendations.

The report recommends the city use the Incident Command System procedures implemented by the National Incident Management System in anticipation of all future large events.

It suggests accurate information gathering is essential to planning the events.

"As the events of Aug. 12 demonstrate, not all attendees at protest events will coordinate with law enforcement, either because they are too loosely organized to do so or because it is incompatible with their ideology," the report says.

The report says planners must allow room for flexibility in all plans.

During the Unite the Right rally, Heather Heyer was killed when a car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Two Virginia State troopers died when their helicopter crashed in Albemarle County.

Jason Kessler, the man who organized the rally, has already filed to hold another next August on the same day.

Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones released a statment Friday, thanking Heaphy for his work.

"Although we do not agree with every aspect of the report's findings we do appreciate the efforts of the reviewrs to talk to people from all walks of life about their experiences this summer," the statement reads.

The statement says a new plan will be unveiled at the City Council meeting on Monday, December 4.

"Charlottesville is a strong, resilient City that values and celebrates our diversity," Jones wrote.

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas also released a statement, saying:

The goal of this report is a more unified Charlottesville, and I couldn't agree more. My hope now is that, as we move forward, and as we seek common understanding among a diversity of people, that we can learn from the productive elements of this report, work together to address our shortcomings and recommit ourselves to serving the public in a way that gives our citizens the utmost confidence in their safety and wellbeing.

The report from Heaphy ends with a positive note, saying "If, however, we use these events as an impetus to confront difficult issues and learn from each other, we can emerge a stronger, more united community."

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