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
Gates criticized the officers’ actions but dismissed them as an aberration. Critics said they represented a pattern of abuse directed at minorities allowed to flourish under Gates’ watch.
Under pressure to resign, Gates announced his retirement in the months following the beating. He was just two months short of leaving when the officers were acquitted on April 29, 1992, a verdict that triggered one of the worst outbreaks of civil unrest in Los Angeles history.
Four days of rioting throughout the sprawling city left 55 people dead, more than 2,000 injured and property damage totaling $1 billion. Entire blocks of the city were reduced to cinders by fires.
Gates came under intense criticism from the mayor, fire chief and others who said officers were slow to respond. Then-Mayor Tom Bradley said Gates had “brought Los Angeles to the brink of disaster just to satisfy his own ego.”
Gates shrugged off the criticism, calling his department’s response to the riots “beautiful” and blaming underlings for what errors he did acknowledge. An investigative panel later faulted him for failing to properly prepare the department for such trouble.
Gates’ place in history is still being debated.
“He’s not a politician and the politicians got him,” City Councilman Dennis Zine, a former LAPD motorcycle cop during Gates’ tenure. “They blamed him for use of excessive force, then blamed him when he held back in the riots.”
Gates cemented the LAPD’s standing as the “most respected law enforcement in the United States” with a rigid adherence to classic law-and-order policing, Beck said.
But Bratton said though Gates cared deeply for policing and made significant contributions, he left a department that “had sort of lost its way, and for the next 10 years LA suffered as a result of that.”
After retiring, Gates worked briefly as a radio talk-show host and later as a consultant for various companies.
He also wrote the memoir “Chief: My Life in the LAPD.”
Years after his retirement, he was still responding to his critics.
“There were two beatings. There was one of Rodney King, and then there was the beating of the Los Angeles Police Department. And that one lasted a whole year,” he told The Associated Press in 2002.
He called the rioters “hoodlums” and said they were out to loot and steal with little concern for King. He called King “a no-good S.O.B. parolee who has never been able to find himself ever since.”
A month before he retired, Gates led his last Los Angeles Police Academy graduation ceremony. The crowd cheered him and a band played “Swinging Gates,” a song written in his honor.
Gates’ 43-year career with the LAPD began in 1949, not long after a two-year stint with the Navy during World War II.
A Glendale native and University of Southern California graduate, he was mentored by legendary Chief William Parker. He became chief in 1978.
Gates’ personal life, like his career, was sometimes tumultuous. His marriage ended in divorce and his son struggled with drug abuse, suffering an overdose during the 1992 riots.
In addition to his brother, a retired LAPD captain, Gates is survived by two children.
Associated Press Writer Thomas Watkins and AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles contributed to this story.