Daryl Gates, Former LAPD Chief, Dies
In this May 29, 1992 file photo, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates autographs his book for new police officers after their graduation in Los Angeles. (AP)
AP via YellowBrix
April 16, 2010
LOS ANGELES — Daryl F. Gates, the polarizing former police chief whose 14-year tenure ended amid widespread criticism over his department’s response to the city’s deadly 1992 riots, died Friday after a short bout with cancer. He was 83.
Gates died at his Newport Beach home with his family at his side, according to a police statement.
Gates’ brother said in February the former chief had bladder cancer that had spread to a bone near his hip.
A tart-tongued career cop with a short fuse and a penchant for making controversial statements, Gates was a flashpoint for controversy long before the riots that broke out after four white police officers were acquitted of most charges in the beating of black motorist Rodney King.
“He was a man of deep convictions,” said former Police Chief William Bratton, who left the department last year. “He was very happy to stand up for them, whether you liked them or not. And he enjoyed being in the middle of the bull’s-eye. He thrived on it.”
Although often at odds with civil rights activists, the mayor and other political figures, Gates was well-liked by rank-and-file police officers. He was responsible for numerous police successes that came to be overlooked when he was forced into early retirement after the riots.
Gates was a “one-in-a-million human being,” current Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “He inspired others to succeed and, in doing so, changed the landscape of law enforcement around the world.”
He was credited with developing the policing plan that brought off the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics with not so much as a traffic jam. He also created the department’s popular Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., program for youth.
As a member of the police department’s command staff in 1972, he formed Los Angeles’ first Special Weapons and Tactics Team or SWAT. He also shut down one of the department’s intelligence units in 1983 after learning officers were spying on the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations.
“He was a man of courage and character who had a deep commitment to the rule of law, with a deep pride of the LAPD,” said Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the police officers union. “Chief Gates was a cop’s cop.”
As early as 1982, Gates came under fire for saying more blacks died than whites during the use of carotid chokeholds because “the veins or arteries do not open up as fast as they do on normal people.”
Forensic experts said there was no such difference between races and a black community leader said the only reason blacks died more frequently was because the chokehold was used on them more often.
Gates later apologized.
In 1991, when a policewoman was killed in the line of duty, Gates labeled her accused assailant as “an El Salvadoran drunk who doesn’t belong here.” He once told a congressional committee that drug users should be shot.
Gates’ police career began to unravel with the 1991 beating of King, which was videotaped by a man in a nearby apartment after King was pulled over for speeding. Audiotapes of the officers making racist remarks about the incident were released and the videotape of the prolonged beating televised.