Main | Friday, April 16, 2010

Former LA Police Chief Darryl Gates Dies

Former Los Angeles police chief Darryl Gates, whose legacy includes his disastrous handling of the Rodney King beating and subsequent citywide riots, has died at the age of 83.
As chief during the 1980s, Gates earned a reputation for dealing with gangs, drugs and street crime with a mix of tough, paramilitary force and innovation, establishing the first Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, unit and deploying helicopters to help patrol the sprawling city. But he came under fierce criticism after the violent March 3, 1991, arrest of Rodney King, a black parolee whose beating by Los Angeles police was captured on videotape and broadcast around the world as evidence of LAPD racism and brutality. Four of the officers were put on trial for King's beating and their acquittal in April 1992 by an all-white jury touched off three days of the worst urban riots in modern U.S. history, leaving 53 people dead. Gates, who was roundly criticized for attending a fund-raising dinner in the first hours of rioting, came under heavy pressure to resign and stepped down in June of that year.
Veteran Los Angeles-based gay reporter Karen Ocamb recalls Gates' notorious homophobia.
[T]he hell experienced by gay officers inside the LAPD was made public when Mitch Grobeson filed his famous lawsuit in 1988, describing harassment and being left without back up in a dangerous situation. Gay attorney Jon Davidson, now Legal Director for Lambda Legal, made sure Grobeson and other gays testified before Christopher Commission about the harassment they faced under Gate’s command – and the abuse the LGBT community suffered at the hand of LAPD cops. One interesting point from the Christopher Commission Report – which Gates threw down and stomped on – was this little tidbit: one of the Mobile Digital Transmissions (MDTs) referred to gays as “NHI” – “No Human Involved.”
Read Ocamb's exhaustive recounting of Gates' career. It's a fascinating look at the evolution of gay-police relations in Los Angeles.

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