S1: Just a quick warning, this episode has some explicit language. When footage of Rodney King’s beating took over the news, Daryl Gates had been the Los Angeles police chief for nearly 13 years under Gates. The LAPD had built a reputation for toughness. The chief didn’t do political correctness. He stood up for his officers. He was a cop’s cop. But even the chief the face of the LAPD knew that he couldn’t defend a behavior court on George Holiday’s video camera.
S2: Five days after the incident, L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates recommended felony prosecution for the officers who beat him, and he vowed to discipline the 12 officers who watched. This is not a representation of the good work of Los Angeles Police Department, and you won’t find anyone. You will not find a police officer in this in this city that will in any way attempt to justify what those officers did.
S1: Gates might have hoped he could blame the Rodney King incident on a few bad apples and move on. But that’s not the way the public saw it. Two thirds of L.A. residents believe the LAPD regularly used excessive force, according to a Los Angeles Times poll. Local black activists called for Gates’s resignation. Soon, they were joined by the ACLU and the local chapter of the AFL-CIO. Two weeks after the beating, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times had come around. The newspaper said that the king case was a symptom of a larger problem. Issues with command and control training and the values of LAPD officers gates that and solve those problems and in some cases had exacerbated them, the paper wrote. If he is a true patriot of the city and a true believer in the LAPD for the good of Los Angeles, he should resign. The chief was facing the most dire crisis of his career. The day after that, L.A. Times editorial was published. Gates was scheduled to speak before the City Council,
S2: please call the roll, Madam Clerk.
S3: Alan Cory Bernardi, Brendan Bradley, Federal Laws Galanter Holding Parks will actually Yaroslavsky for all 10 council members President of Quorum, Mr. President.
S1: Gates turned up late, so the meeting began with public comment.
S2: Public confidence has been shaken to the core. Clearly, there is no confidence
S1: in the police chief at this time.
S2: Gates must go. That is that is just it. The bottom line. Gates must go now.
S4: There was never a time when I thought you could get rid of them.
S1: That Zev Yaroslavsky. He was a member of the L.A. City Council.
S4: In practice, the police chief was was very powerful and the Dept. was very powerful. LAPD was the most powerful political force in the city.
S1: Eventually, Gates took a seat in front of the council. He wasn’t there to apologize or offer concessions. Gates was there to make a demand. He wanted the council to make a statement of support for him and the LAPD.
S2: I just say once again, this is your police department. This is a police department that has supported you. Each of you you know that we are there when when your constituents ask us to be there, you know that we do our very, very best to inquire into any, any complaint that comes to your attention. But if you let this police department down, if you don’t speak out on behalf of the men and women Los Angeles Police Department and those serve the people of this city, well, you don’t do that at this crucial moment in our history. Now I’m going to tell you you’re going to have a police department that is not going to be the kind of Dept. that you want, the kind of Dept. that the people expect, the kind of Dept. the people deserve. It just is not going to be there.
S1: City Councilmember Michael Wu had a question for Gates.
S5: I want to know, did you mean that as a threat? In other words, that if, if, if I or other members of the council are going to be criticizing you or the Dept., are you saying that you will withhold support of these neighborhood or street services to fight crime in our districts?
S2: That is the most insulting thing I have heard on this council floor and all the time I’ve been here and I’ve been here a lot longer than you’ve been alive. Absolutely not. This is a professional organization. What do you think we are? That is an insulting, insulting question.
S1: Wu told me recently that for him, that exchange with Darrell Gates was a turning point.
S5: I’m basically a fairly mild mannered person, but I reached my limit. You know, the chief had stepped over the threshold that I could tolerate.
S1: Who thought the tide might finally be turning against Gates and the LAPD? He had been on the council for six years and was hoping to run for higher office will realize that calling for gates to go would be a way to get some attention.
S5: I was having these phone conversations with my political consultant figuring out, Is this the time? Should I? Should I do this or not? And then I was also trying to do this before other members of the council were doing it. That was also a consideration. It was, if it was worth doing, I shouldn’t be number two or number three. I should do it when I can still be the first one to speak out.
S1: A week after Gates appeared before the council, who called a news conference at City Hall,
S5: the time has come for Chief Gates to resign.
S3: Councilman Michael Woo is the first elected city official to call for Gates to step down.
S1: This is slow burn. I’m your host, Joel Anderson. The Rodney King tape had exposed the brutality of Darrell Gates’s LAPD to the world. Now, the city’s most powerful institutions were calling for an end to Gates’s career and to the department’s culture of contempt that he embodied. But the chief had no plans to go without a fight. How did Los Angeles respond in the face of video evidence of its cubs at their worst? Could anyone hold the LAPD to account? And what happened when LA’s political establishment went toe to toe with Daryl Gates? This is episode three. The chief. Darrell Gates was a 23 year old college senior when he found out that his wife was pregnant. He’d hoped to go to law school, but now we had a family to provide for, so he dropped out of college to join the LAPD. It was 1949. Within a year, Gates was promoted from patrol officer to chauffeur for Police Chief Bill Parker. It turned out to be a plum assignment.
S2: He studied at the right hand of Parker and that had an influence on Gates.
S1: That’s Jim Newton. He covered law enforcement for the L.A. Times.
S2: Certainly starting with Parker, the Dept. saw itself, and Parker is responsible for a lot of this as a paramilitary organization primarily white, almost all male, and viewed its fundamental charge as maintaining the peace.
S1: Parker’s police department helped maintain the racial hierarchy of Los Angeles. He sanctioned segregated patrols and only begrudgingly hired black and Mexican-American officers. His mostly white police force brutally enforced the racial boundaries of the city.
S2: Parker, notoriously a racist, among other things, Wood was reputed to find police officer candidates at Ku Klux Klan rallies
S1: once during an interview. Parker said black people who migrated to the city had, quote, flooded a community that wasn’t prepared to meet them.
S2: He added,
S1: We didn’t ask these people to come here.
S2: It was a Dept. that really saw itself as the thin blue line. I mean, I really believed that in its absence, the violence of Los Angeles would just spread across the city instead of being tamped down.
S1: Gates spent 15 months driving Parker around in a Buick Diner Fallow. He described the experience as a tutorial on how to be a chief. That time in the driver’s seat served gates well. He rose through the LAPD ranks at a steady clip, becoming a sergeant, then a lieutenant, then a captain and then a commander. In 1965, Gates was charged with leading the department’s response to the Watts riots. Six days of unrest that began when a traffic stop turned violent. More than 30000 people participated in the riots
S2: that began, with police and rioters clashing on a hot Wednesday night. Some believe it could have been stopped right then if law officers moved in in force and sealed off the area. Perhaps so, perhaps not. But within a matter of hours, it was completely out of hand. The Watts riots were a shocking event in the psyche of Los Angeles. I think among those who were most startled by them were liberal leaders who thought the depth of these problems were already behind L.A.
S1: during the riots. Parker empowered Gates to put the rebellion down by force. Gates use mass arrests more than 3400 to restore order to the area. Thirty four people died during those six days. Twenty three of them at the hands of the police and National Guard. Property damage was estimated at $40 million. About three hundred and fifty one million in today’s dollars. In the years after the Watts riots. Gates’s profile grew. He created a new unit within the LAPD Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT. It was the first SWAT team in the country. The idea was to better equip the police to fight the guerrilla style warfare. Gates claimed his officers encountered in Watts. He went on to speak about riot control to agencies all over the country. After Parker’s death in 1966, Gates was promoted to deputy chief and then a year later to assistant chief. Finally, in 1978, the city’s police commission selected him to lead the LAPD. Here’s former Councilmember Zev Yaroslavsky.
S4: He was the most moderate of the top three candidates, so everybody thought he was going to be, you know, a guy we could work with kind of thing. And and it didn’t turn out that way.
S1: Like his predecessor, Bill Parker, Gates projected the power of the police. He was tall, tanned and always impeccably dressed.
S2: I mean, this is L.A. He was the celebrity. He had the uniform. You know, he was the guy.
S1: That’s Dermot Givens. He was a law student and community organizer in South Central L.A.
S2: Might not know who my daddy is. No delegates.
S1: Gates Gates followed Parker’s example in another way. He took an aggressive approach to policing LA’s minority communities.
S2: They had two squads that were, I forget what they call them in L.A., but you know, the cars that will go around and black folks just knew that’s the car they will. They get you, they will beat your ass. And it was how to keep niggers in place.
S1: Gates used the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as an opportunity to hire more officers. Addressing his long time complaint that the LAPD was undermanned, he mostly deployed those officers in LA’s black and Latino neighborhoods, calling them gang sweeps. Though pitched as a security measure for the Olympics, the sweeps continued long after the closing ceremony. Over the next five years, citizen complaints about excessive force by LAPD officers rose 33 percent. The MacNeil Lehrer News Hour sat down with Gates for a long interview in the wake of the king beating. Gates made no apologies for focusing his Policing efforts on black neighborhoods.
S2: There’s no question we do spend a good deal of our time in the black community. There is a great deal of crime in that community. There’s been a great deal of violence in that community, and so we spend time trying to protect the people trying to do our very best to ferret out the crime. That means we’re going to contact many people who have not done anything, but we are inquiring into what they have done or what they might be done be doing because we have no way of ascertaining whether good or bad people.
S1: Gates could be even more direct than that at a U.S. Senate hearing in 1990. He said casual drug users ought to be taken out and shot, and he once suggested that black people were more vulnerable to death from chokeholds than what he called normal people.
S4: Zev Yaroslavsky When he made some horrible comments about the veins of the arteries of black people, I’ve always wondered Where did he get that? You know who, who? Who whispered that in his ear? That was such a bizarre thing. But no, nobody said, well, he could have. You could have lit the city on fire with that comment. We’re going to fire him now because he knew he couldn’t fire.
S1: Yaroslavsky and his fellow council members didn’t have the authority to fire gates, according to the Los Angeles City Charter. The only group that did have the power to get rid of the chief was the city’s police commission, and even they were extremely constrained in what they could do.
S4: Council couldn’t fire him. American fire only the police commission could fire him. You could only remove a police chief in the same way you could remove any other civil servant. You have to remove them for cause he had to commit a crime. Moral turpitude. So you can’t just fire somebody because he makes a ridiculously racist comment. You can’t. You couldn’t do that legally. He’d go to court. He’d stop you. So there was never it was never an issue of whether he would be fired. The issue is whether at the end, he could be persuaded to leave.
S1: The city charter put the mayor in a tough spot. Tom Bradley was the first black mayor of Los Angeles as a black liberal in a city with a predominantly white voter base. Bradley was vulnerable to the perception that he was soft on crime. That stereotype had hurt him in the 1969 mayor’s race, which he lost to incumbent Sam Yorty.
S4: Bradley was scarred by the 1969 mayoral campaign. He never got over it psychologically. So when there were reforms to be proposed and implemented, he wasn’t the leader. He wasn’t the alpha dog. He let the police commissioner do it because the last thing he wanted to do was have a Geordie guy or Yorty himself who was still on television in those days to say, Told you so. Look what he’s doing. You know, he’s he’s handcuffing the police.
S1: Bradley had started off his career as a police officer in the LAPD. He and Gates were no friends of each other.
S2: Jim Newton Why did they dislike each other so much? My sense from Bradley’s perspective is that
S1: Bradley grew up in the LAPD,
S2: and he knew how bad it could be. So I, you know, when allegations started coming out about police misconduct and particularly racially motivated police misconduct, Bradley had every reason to believe that they were true. On the other side, Gates’s Polestar, the principle by which he set his watch was Don’t let politicians interfere in the operations of the police department. And now what does he have to deal with? Is a politician who came from the police department who knows exactly what its weak points are and who is determined to work on it. So from Gates’s perspective, Bradley is the ultimate threat to his autonomy and his department’s autonomy.
S1: The king beating gave Bradley an opening. He didn’t have the authority to fire the chief, but suddenly he could make Gates’s life very, very uncomfortable. More on that after the break. Tom Bradley began his campaign to oust Gates by playing an inside game. He stopped the police commission with allies who he hoped would support a campaign to get gates out. And he began assembling a blue ribbon commission to build a case for reform. A blue ribbon commission is something politicians usually put together when they want to put off acting on an issue. The commission listens to testimony and hears a wide range of views and then issues a report that’s mostly ignored. But Bradley wanted a commission that could make a real impact. He was looking for a blueprint to fix the problems that have plagued the LAPD for decades, and he hoped to build a damning case against Gates. So Bradley reached out to Warren. Christopher Christopher was a national hero a decade earlier as Jimmy Carter’s deputy secretary of state. He had negotiated the release of 52 American hostages from Iran. 15 years before that, he’d served on the state commission that investigated the Watts riots. That group had assembled a thick report on the social problems that had fed into the riots with detailed proposals for solutions. Most of them were never implemented. Christopher didn’t want to repeat that experience. Here’s John Speigel, who worked alongside Christopher.
S5: His point of view was We’re not just going to have another commission. And so when Chris took on the LAPD reform, it was We’re going to make things happen. And he knew that the LAPD needed radical change. And, you know, he probably also knew he was the only guy who could really make it happen.
S1: With Christopher at his side. Tom Bradley was newly emboldened at the age of 73 and in the twilight of his political career, Bradley thought he might finally be able to take down his longtime nemesis. The day after the mayor announced his new commission, he called Darrell Gates to his office.
S5: Today I met with Police Chief Daryl Gates. At that meeting, I call upon Chief Gates to resign as chief of police.
S2: Jim Newton I don’t know at what point Bradley decided that Gates had to go and whether this was sort of opportunistic on Bradley’s part to fulfill a long standing ambition to get gates out of there, or to what degree he just believed that the time had finally come. I don’t know the answer to that, but at some point it became Powerless.
S1: Two days later, the police commission, which Bradley had loaded up with allies, announced that it was putting Gates on a 60 day paid leave of absence. Gates was furious.
S2: I feel that I have been disgraced and defamed, and I think it is a tragedy. It will not heal the wounds of the city.
S1: Gates’s suspension didn’t last long. He threatened to sue the city and was back at his desk the next day. The first attempt to rein in gates had failed. Later that same day, Gates attended a fundraising luncheon in the San Fernando Valley. The chief entered the crowded ballroom to a standing ovation.
S3: The focus of the city’s heated debate got a warm welcome at a luncheon hosted by his supporters. Organizers had to make room for several hundred extra people who showed up. Chief Gates shared the dais with George Holliday, the man who shot the Rodney King videotape.
S2: It’s a guy that never been to the movies and loves home movies. A lousy movie. But it wasn’t for our helicopters, the lighting would have been horrible. All right.
S1: So this was the situation that Warren Christopher had agreed to step into a public beef between the city’s first black mayor and a powerful police chief with a strong base of support. Christopher had to tread carefully.
S6: I know he was very sensitive about could he be seen as independent because of the rivalry and because of the fact that apparently the mayor already thought that the chief should go? So he was very concerned about that.
S1: That’s Andrea Sheridan, Auden. She was one of the 10 members of the commission. Christopher wanted his commission to be seen as fair and impartial. He faced one challenge right away. Gates It announced his own plan to restore confidence in the LAPD, including a commission with all the members appointed by Daryl Gates,
S2: must look for any and all conditions that may have contributed to the development of attitudes and patterns of behavior that could have led to this kind of gross misconduct.
S1: Gates announced that put Christopher in a tough spot. If Gates launched a rival group, his own commission would be seen as representing Bradley side. So he set out to do something very clever and very difficult to persuade Gates’s commission to combine forces with his own. John Spiegel served as general counsel for the Christopher Commission.
S5: I remember at the time, you know, I just signed up with him to do this, saying, Chris, you know, you’re crazy. You’re never going to get the Gates commission to merge with, you know, your commission and let you be the chairman.
S1: Spiegel and Christopher drove to Orange County to meet with the head of Gates’s panel. Retired California Supreme Court Justice John R..
S5: We, you know, had lunch in the restaurant, in the office building there in Newport Beach, and Chris cut this deal. And so that was the first miracle.
S1: The unified commission had 10 members, including our Goya’s and two others from Gates this group. They had a broad mandate to investigate almost every aspect of policing in Los Angeles. In his autobiography, Gates said the two commissions merged with his consent. Warren Christopher set a deadline of 100 days. I asked commission member Andrea Sheridan Orden if that timeline sounded ambitious,
S6: ambitious to the extreme, ambitious to the extreme. You know, even by that time, I’d been doing commissions and various reports, and so I’d worked on these things before, but they didn’t have that, that that engine that this had. Warren Christopher was able and Bradley and others, they were all able to say, This is important. This is not going to be a waste of your time.
S1: The commissioners were assisted by 60 staff attorneys, most from elite law firms around town. They rented a floor in a downtown high rise tower and held public hearings and local churches and schools. Sheridan Gordon worried that that establishment makeup meant the commission and its staff couldn’t possibly address the concerns of the streets.
S6: They had driven for years and never, ever been stopped for a tail light or a windshield wiper that was not working properly.
S1: The commission and its staff were largely white and white collar, but they made an effort to bring in other perspectives.
S2: Mr. Chris was like, Yeah, we’re going to do something and we need black people, you know, especially like law students to get engaged and stay engaged and is.
S1: Dermot Givens was president of the Black Law Students Association at the University of West Los Angeles.
S2: I needed to be involved in it because these are the white folks that had the power and are going to do something about it. So if you are serious about making change, you need to stay engaged with this process.
S1: The commission interviewed 500 current and retired LAPD officers and 50 expert witnesses. Community members were invited to speak at public hearings around the city.
S2: You know, first of all, black folks want to. You don’t want to ask a question, they want to tell you shit.
S1: In May 1991, Givens wrote a short prepared statement to an audience that included the commission and other community members.
S2: Our constitution violated every bill by Los Angeles police officers use of unnecessary and excessive force. I had two audiences one the powers that be the white folks, the Warren Christopher to understand that is black folks are concerned about this. But I want the people in the room, you know, like, preach. I wanted them to be with me that they didn’t look at me like some sellout nigger that said law school.
S1: Givens closed by telling the audience that he was willing to give the commission a chance as its.
S7: Speaker’s item on the agenda of this commission with skepticism, however, as. My skepticism Fiery. I have,
S2: you know, I want the audience to know I got the same skepticism that you have and you’re here for the same reason because we’re all here because we think this is the vehicle to make change. But we know we’ve been down this road so many times and it might be hope, but there’s a little hope. A whole lot of hope.
S1: Let’s take a quick break. On Friday, June 14th, 1991, Darrell Gates set before a room packed with staffers for his interview with the Christopher Commission. A majority of people on the commission have become increasingly certain that Gates needed to go. They believe that the LAPD had a culture of contempt for the public and that it was Gates who set the tone. This interview would be a chance to prove that he was unfit to lead the department. So Warren Christopher approached the interview strategically. He decided that John Spiegel, a former prosecutor, would be the only one to question Gates.
S5: Chris and I spent a lot of time talking about it beforehand, and the point was to be very deferential. So it was not the kind of Perry Mason cross-examination where you say, don’t you admit to being a shitty chief of police or anything like that, right? So it was very respectful. But you know, our theory was that Gates would basically hang himself.
S1: Did you get a sense that he knew that he was fighting for his job and ultimately his legacy?
S5: No, no. He was so supremely confident. You know, he felt impregnable.
S2: Well, thank you. And I don’t have any initial statement. I’d rather just go forward. As John knows, I’ll probably do a lot of elaborating as we go forward. He’s already told me that he will try and control the questioning, but that you’re totally in control of what he has to say that I always tell the truth.
S1: Again, as the session began, Gates was on his best behavior. He spoke at length about the difficulty of police work and the challenges facing his department. He came across as charming, commanding, coolly analytical. The commission had reviewed more than 100000 pages of messages that officers sent through computers in their patrol cars. They included hundreds of racist, sexist and homophobic comments. Some of them joked about beating and shooting suspects. Spiegel asked Gates what the department was doing about the officers who sent those messages.
S2: We have discipline, but obviously that had not had enough enough impact, and the officers are still using it and using it in a highly improper way. If at all possible, do something that’s positive out of this or bring something positive. We can stop it. We will stop it. The auditing will stop it. Discipline will stop it. And that will take place very soon.
S1: Spiegel continued to press,
S5: Do you think that these some of these comments are reflective of fundamental attitudes and comments about monkey slapping time and the comments about if you encounter Nico, shoot first and ask questions later? And are these reflective on on the part of some officers? Obviously, not. Not all officers.
S2: You know, police officers who work in the garbage pail all the time, you know, they’re constantly working in a very, very difficult arena and very difficult arena. And some of them get very cynical. Some get very hard. Some are. Some of them are frightened. Some of them are stressed. And when you are frightened or stressed, a lot of these things, a lot of things come out that perhaps like not to come out.
S1: Not surprisingly, Gates was indicating he had more sympathy for officers accused of abuse than for the victims of their abuse. About an hour into the interview, Spiegel started the push gates on the fact that he’d already held his position for 13 years. Experts have told the commission that that was too long for anyone to serve, as Chief Gates suggested that he might have left already if not for his critics.
S2: Probably lasted longer than I should, and probably a people leave me alone. I would have left some time ago.
S1: Gates was on the defensive and I
S2: had planned to go three to five years. I thought that’s that’s going to be enough to be chief of police. The Olympics Olympics came along. I wanted to go through that. I thought that was a real challenge. I wanted to meet that challenge. I went through that had thoughts of retiring and there’s been one thing after another. And part of it has been controversy. And part of it has been a desire to accomplish some things that I think needed to be accomplished. And I and I look at had things gone a little bit differently, I probably would have been gone.
S1: In his closing statement, Gates asks the commission to help rebuild public support for him and the LAPD. It was the same request he’d made to the City Council almost three months earlier. Then he carried himself with the swagger. Now, he seemed concerned that the commission might be a problem for him.
S2: I think the job is to rebuild confidence, and I hope the effort of the commission is aimed at that and not a total disruption and change and remodeling of the police department. It is a troubling time in the city of Los Angeles. I wish it were not so.
S1: Gates’s appearance before the Christopher Commission didn’t help him, but another LAPD veteran hurt him even more.
S8: Me, I opened up, honestly evaluated Darrell Gates at a performance
S1: that’s David Dotson. He had served in the LAPD for 33 years, rising to Assistant Chief. Gates described Dotson as one of his closest confidants
S8: and to tell you the truth. I spent some sleepless nights before my testimony trying to figure out what I should do, and I finally said, Well to van own self, be true, you know, let the chips fall
S2: where they may and
S8: they fell. All right.
S2: I have a couple of caveats that I’d like to make at the very beginning, and that is that I’m David Dotson and the things you heard from me or my opinions
S1: in the past. Dotson had expressed reservations internally about Gates’s approach to policing in South Central L.A., even in a senior position. Dotson struggled to be heard. Now we finally had a receptive audience,
S2: essentially, and I’m paying very broad brush. But essentially in the last 13 years, the Los Angeles Police Department with a couple of very notable exceptions. We have not had it, in my opinion, at the top. Very effective leadership.
S8: I thought that Darrell had outlived its usefulness as a chief. So I was not real kind to him.
S1: Dotson talked about Gates’s inability to hold anyone accountable.
S2: That’s an area that I believe we have failed miserably and is holding people accountable for the actions of their people.
S5: How hard is that accountability
S2: go all the way? I’m not held accountable. I screwed things up. And the worst you can do is get a pained expression on his face.
S1: And that’s also plainly stated what he thought needed to be done to fix the Dept..
S5: It sounds like what you’re saying. Maybe that’s putting it too directly is that what the Dept. needs is new leadership.
S2: I think that is very direct, and it’s very difficult for me to say that, but that’s exactly what I believe. All right. It’s exactly what I believe.
S1: John Spiegel guided that testimony with Dotson.
S5: It was really refreshing to have somebody come in and just tell it the way it was. I just think it had a big impact. It was like, holy shit.
S1: A later interview with another assistant, chief, Jesse Brewer, bolstered Dotson’s case prior to his retirement. A few days before the king beating Brewer was the highest ranking black officer and LAPD history. His words carried extra weight.
S2: How would you rate the leadership of the Dept. during the 13 years that Chief Gates, that our chief of police? That’s a difficult question. I would not give him a good grade in his handling of discipline. What grade would you give him? I would probably give him a D.. I think I would be generous in giving him a D discipline because I felt the way handle discipline was really not for the best for the department nor for the people of the city.
S1: The testimony of Dotson and Brewer confirmed that something needed to be done about Daryl Gates, but what the commission partially appointed by the chief himself in a city charter that hamstrung all of the political forces in Los Angeles. The question was how? Let’s take another break. Warren, Christopher, one of the conclusions of this commission to be unanimous, the majority of the commissioners wanted to call for Gates’s ouster, but a couple of the members who Gates had originally appointed to his own commission weren’t ready to go that far.
S5: And Chris said, You focus on the evidence. Let me worry about that. So he worked these guys one by one and eventually brought them around.
S1: One of the holdouts was Richard Mosk, an attorney who served on the commission that investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
S5: Chris would go running with him at 5:00 in the morning because they lived. They both lived near each other in Beverly Hills. And so they chat.
S1: Mosque eventually sided with the rest of the group. The Christopher Commission, even those who originally appointed by Darrell Gates, would call for the chief’s resignation. Once Christopher had finally got everyone on board, the commission started writing the report. They put together a 228 page document, one tightly focused on the use of excessive force. Here’s what they found A significant number of LAPD officers repeatedly misuse force, and the department made little effort to discipline or remove them. The report also found evidence of an appreciable number of disturbing and recurrent racial remarks and an organizational culture that isolates the police from the communities and the people they serve. The authors wrote. Witness after witness testified to unnecessarily aggressive confrontations between LAPD officers and citizens, particularly members of minority communities. The commission laid blame for those problems on supervising officers all the way up to gates. Here’s Commissioner Andrea Sheridan Auden.
S6: There are lots and lots of paragraphs that are very careful to, to and balanced all the way through. I mean, all the way through. I recognize that. But with today’s roughness of language, what we put in there doesn’t look like anything. I say anybody, I think right now. But at the time, this was this was explosive.
S1: The Christopher Commission made 130 recommendations. Among them were shifting to a community oriented form of policing and overhauling the police commission to give it more power over the chief. But what captured headlines was the commission’s recommendation for Chief Gates to step down and a call to change the city charter to give the police chief. Term limits. We believe that commencement of a transition and that office is now appropriate, the report read. The commission’s recommendation was a significant victory for Mayor Tom Bradley, who put all of this in motion in the first place. He hoped that he had finally found a way to depose Darrell gates.
S5: This is no time to tinker with the commission’s solutions or to let political differences block our way. The commission’s recommendations should be adopted as written without change.
S1: But Darrell Gates had other ideas. He read the commission’s recommendations closely, and he seized on one line. We hope that Chief Gates will remain in office while his successor is being chosen. That little bit of wiggle room gave Gates time to figure out his next move. His attorney told the news hour the chief would be in no rush to leave.
S2: I don’t see where they’re urging an immediate retirement on the part of the chief. City Council is going to have to look at this report. They’re going to have to approve it or we prove what portions they believe necessary and then they’re going to have to submit it to the voters.
S1: Gates’s attorney’s argument was a little slick. Some of the commission’s recommendations would have to go before the voters. But Gates could resign at any time. Gates’s position was that nothing could change until there had been a referendum, which wouldn’t take place for nearly a year. Christopher held firm on the report’s recommendation. Here he is talking to the news hour just after the commission’s report was released. The program devoted nearly half of their nightly broadcast to Christopher’s findings.
S2: All I can say is that our commission, consisting of 10 members, three of whom were appointed by Chief Gates, concluded on a unanimous basis that the transition and the Office of Chief of Police should begin now.
S1: But Gates was committed to drawing this out. He immediately retaliated against David Dodson, the assistant chief who testified to the commission a day after the release of the report. Gates stripped Dodson of his position as the head of internal affairs.
S8: He was very upset. He told me he was upset because I was an asshole and
S2: on and on.
S1: Los Angeles was finally ready to move past Gates, but the city was still stuck with him, at least for a while. For Dermot Givens, it was proof that the commission was a waste of time.
S2: Oh, we got to have hope for the future. The fact that we only hope for the future. What about today I walk out here, the building is going to be fucking with me. You cannot do anything about that.
S1: It was hard to deny LAPD largely remained intact. Gates was still in charge, and the Dept. was still only distantly accountable to the city’s elected officials. At the close of his autobiography, Gates boasted no one had run me out. Here’s Gates’s attorney.
S2: And in fact, I think it would be very detrimental to the citizens of this city and to the police department if he was to leave at this point immediately. The chief has always said there’s a point in his career that he would retire. I think that things have to settle down.
S1: Gates would remain chief for another 11 months, defiantly lingering in the job in a time of deepening crisis in Los Angeles. During that time, no. Things did not settle down.
S2: Thirteen years of being battered, pushed and otherwise tormented is a long, long time. On the other hand, the support that I have within this organization and with the community has been just outstanding, and I don’t expect to just run away.
S1: Next week on Slow Burn, Rodney King tries to navigate his new life in the spotlight.
S2: Only thing he could think about with a boost to the phase, the boost to the ribs, the just the beaten as if he was having nightmares about it, you know, so he was in bad shape. Dude, what could you have done to deserve that? You know what was deserving of that, right, dear? I was like looking at the sky thinking, Wow, why me? And then I thought to myself, Why not me?
S1: Slow burn is a production of Slate Plus Slate’s membership program. You can sign up for Slate Plus two here, a bonus episode of the show this week and every week for the next two months. And as this week’s bonus episode, you’ll be hearing more from Jim Newton, who reported about the LAPD for the L.A. Times. Head over to Slate.com, slash slow burn to sign up and listen now. It’s only a dollar for your first month. We couldn’t make slow burn without the support of Slate Plus, so please sign up if you can head over to Slate.com. Slash Slow Burn Slow Burn is produced by Jayson de Leon Ethan Brooks, Sophie Summergrad, Jasmine Ellis and Me Joel Anderson Editorial Direction by Josh Levine and Gabriel Roth. Artwork is by Jim Cook. Our theme music was composed by Don Well, mixing by Merritt Jacob. The audio you heard from the Christopher Commission hearings is courtesy of the University of Southern California on behalf of the USC Library’s special collections. Additional audio from archivist Michael Holland and the Los Angeles City Archive Office of the City Clerk. Special thanks to Stan Mizrahi, Devin Schwartz, Jared Holt, Lowe and Lou Allison. Benedict Willa Paskin, Jeanette Desmond Harris, Amber Smith, Bill Carey, Meredith Moran, Derrick Johnson, Seth Brown, Rachel Strong child to Aisha Saluja and Katie Raiford. Thanks for listening.