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04/16/2010

Daryl F. Gates, the 1992 riots and the end of his career

April 16, 2010 | 10:36 am

“The good people are at home and what you have out there are people who wanted an excuse to steal,” said Daryl F. Gates in an interview televised during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Gates, who died Friday, was at the helm of the LAPD when rioting broke out over the acquittal of four white officers accused of beating black motorist Rodney King.

In his obituary, writers Elaine Woo and Eric Malnic describe the fallout to Gates' career after the city went up in flames:

He was not on speaking terms with (Mayor Tom) Bradley on the afternoon of April 29, 1992, when the four LAPD officers indicted in the King beating were acquitted by a Ventura County jury meeting in Simi Valley. Within hours, mobs began setting fires, looting stores and beating motorists in the worst outbreak of violence in Los Angeles history.

The rioting erupted at Florence and Normandie avenues while Gates was attending a Brentwood function to raise funds in opposition to a police-reform ballot measure. Several hours passed before he returned to take charge, and by then his officers were in full retreat. By the time order was restored two days later, with an assist from the National Guard, at least 53 people had died.

Gates blamed two subordinates, but a panel led by former FBI and CIA director William H. Webster placed the responsibility with Gates, saying the chief had “failed to provide a real plan and meaningful training to control the disorder.”

On June 28, 1992, Gates finally stepped down, ending weeks of suspense. ... His refusal to give up the job during the King episode ultimately led to new provisions in the City Charter that gave the mayor and the Police Commission the power to select -- and remove -- the chief, who now has a term limit.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

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