Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Riots and Civil Disorders

I started this blog because I felt many of the questions, issues, and policies I studied and worried about over the term of my government service and beyond needed to be addressed by the powers that be. Fortunately, some of the subjects involved events of low probability and high consequence and they did NOT occur. Riots and civil disorders have occurred several times over the last 50 years in the US.

At the time of the LA riots in 1992, I was asked by the then General Counsel of FEMA if a disaster declaration could be issued for those riots. I explained that while it could be issued, the policy of 7 administrations had been uniform in not declaring a disaster for riot and civil disorders largely on the basis that it would encourage the perpatrators. At the time of the request I handed the then General Counsel Patricia Gormley the following memorandum to make her understand that while it was not my position but was the office position. That memorandum (legal Opinion?)is available from me at

What might be of further interest is that since retiring in October 1999 from FEMA on two occasions I have written personal letters to the Attorney Generals of the US. Neither was answered.

One concerned the research or lack thereof on the so-called "theraputic community" that results after a disaster and suggested that another result might occur in the event of a bioterrorism attack. The other dealt with FEMA authority issues which will be discussed further in the blog.

My bottom line conclusion is that DOJ and the AG's [one letter went to John Ascroft dealing with riots and civil disorders] and one to AG Gonzales on FEMA authority after incorporation into DHS is that at this point in time NO person, NO organization, and NO real Executive Branch or CRS or DHS/OIG, or GAO analysis exists on these topics.

Based on my briefing of Pat Gormely, the President George H.W. Bush declared a disaster for the LA fires, not the riots and civil disorders.