LAPD Chief During 1992 L.A. Riots Dies At 83

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Daryl Gates dies

From the New York Times:

Daryl F. Gates, the unyielding chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, whose aggressive approach to policing in a period of intense urban turmoil was both admired for its innovation and criticized for the racial unrest it provoked, died on Friday at his home in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 83.

In a statement, the police department said he died after “a short battle with cancer.”

Mr. Gates began his police career in 1949 as a Los Angeles patrolman, and it ended when he was forced to resign in June 1992, after 14 years as chief. The years in between were a raucous era in which Los Angeles almost doubled its population while becoming overwhelmed by drugs, gangs, guns and a tide of violent crime.

Mr. Gates pioneered the use of police helicopters to fight crime across the nearly 470 square miles of his city, and he helped develop the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit, made up of elite mobile teams of highly trained officers.

SWAT teams deployed sophisticated surveillance equipment, assault weapons and paramilitary skills to neutralize threats. Hundreds of police departments in the United States and around the world have since developed SWAT units. In Los Angeles, they had a prominent role in maintaining order during the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, a period widely regarded as the high point of Mr. Gates’s career.

Another initiative was DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), a program, begun in the early 1980s, in which officers go into schools to teach students how to resist peer pressure to use drugs, join gangs and engage in violence. Millions of American students now receive the DARE curriculum each year.

But as Los Angeles grew more dense and diverse, as crime increased and as cultural mores and racial attitudes shifted in the ’80s, Mr. Gates’s oversight of the department came under mounting criticism. Black and Hispanic residents accused the police of treating them harshly and Mr. Gates of doing little to rein in his officers. They said the department’s emphasis on making arrests invited confrontation and discouraged good will in minority neighborhoods.

The city’s mayor, Tom Bradley, who was black and a Democrat, was a fierce critic of Mr. Gates, a conservative Republican. So were members of the Los Angeles City Council, several members of the city’s Congressional delegation and the editorial pages of the city’s two major daily newspapers, The Los Angeles Times and The Daily News.

The criticism intensified in March 1991, when Rodney King, a black convicted robber and parolee, was viciously beaten by white officers after a high-speed car chase. The beating was videotaped by a bystander and repeatedly broadcast around the world, provoking widespread revulsion and an intense national debate about police brutality, race relations, poverty and Mr. Gates’s leadership.

Mr. Gates said he was appalled by what he saw on the videotape but defended the department, contending that the officers’ conduct had been an “aberration.”

In April 1992, four white officers accused of assault in the beating of Mr. King were acquitted by an all-white jury. The decision set off three days of rioting, which left 53 people dead, about 2,500 injured and more than $400 million in property damage, mostly in the South-Central neighborhood. A second commission, led by William H. Webster, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, faulted the police, the mayor and the City Council for poor planning, poor coordination and poor reaction to the jury decision.

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