— A decade after the Rodney King beating, former Police Chief Daryl Gates is as defiant as ever.
King, he says, "got whacked a few extra times" but "brought it on himself."
Warren Christopher, the former secretary of state who led the commission that called for reforms in the Los Angeles Police Department after the beating, "doesn't know what he's talking about," Gates says.
And the department's current problems with corruption and low morale?
"You can put it right on the backs of the politicians," he says.
‘Best Police Department in the World’
Gates didn't buy the contention that reforms were needed in the LAPD 10 years ago, and he doesn't buy it now.
"Why would you reform the best police department in the world?" Gates said in a recent interview. "We had one incident, involving just a few officers, and that provided a vehicle for politicians who wanted to be vindictive and were eager to get rid of the chief and take hold of the department. So they began their incessant meddling, and it hasn't stopped yet."
Gates, now 74 and a law enforcement consultant, led the LAPD for 14 years until he was forced to resign in 1992, after the city erupted in riots over the acquittal of the white officers charged in the King beating. Gates was accused of resisting reform and responding too slowly to the riots.
Gates has always scoffed at his critics, but his stance has hardened in recent years.
While King's name has become synonymous with police brutality, Gates says he cannot understand why.
"Here's a guy, a parolee, driving down the freeway between 90 and over 100 in a Hyundai which shouldn't go that fast," Gates says.
"He would not stop for the police or the CHP [California Highway Patrol], challenged the police when he finally did stop, under the influence of beer, which is a violation of his parole, and he got whacked. Los Angeles made him a hero, gave him $3 million and had a riot that almost tore the city apart. And for what?"
Says Changes Were for the Worse
The corruption scandal now plaguing the LAPD — in which officers are accused of framing and shooting suspects — is often described by police critics as symptomatic of the same institutional problems that allowed the King beating to occur.
Gates blames it on changes made after his departure.
The real scandal, he says, is the city's agreement to give the federal government oversight of the LAPD.
"My God! You're really going to bring the ethics of Washington to the Los Angeles Police Department? God help us," Gates says.
Gates believes LAPD officers would welcome him back as chief.
"I guarantee that after six months you'd have a totally changed police department," he says. "I guarantee that."