Then, last year, the LAPD was hit with another scandal when officers in the department's Rampart division, a gang-infested neighborhood, were accused of planting evidence, lying under oath, even shooting unarmed suspects.
Five officers have been charged. One was acquitted, the convictions of three were overturned, and the fifth is awaiting trial on attempted murder charges.
"The King incident was a spontaneous reaction to a middle-of-the-night situation. I think Rampart is worse," said Lou Cannon, author of the book Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. "What went on in Rampart was a lot more cold-blooded. There was an element of malevolence, of premeditation and planning."
Recently the city agreed to federal oversight of the LAPD to try to end racial profiling and brutality. The new district attorney has also reinstated a program in which a prosecutor and investigator rush to the scene of any officer-involved shooting to see if charges are warranted.
Gates, who resigned as chief after the Christopher Commission report detailed brutality, racism and poor management in the LAPD, blamed the panel and later reform efforts by outsiders for the department's current low morale.
"People should stop meddling in the department's affairs and allow it to rebuild itself," Gates said. "You have police officers doing a great job out there day in and day out. They come home at night and read they have to reform the department. They need to feel good about themselves, and they just don't."