Law & Disorder in Los Angeles

Report of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department

by the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department
228 pp.

'Daryl Gates: A Portrait of Frustration'

by Bella Stumbo
Los Angeles Times

          “I have a memory as long as forever.” —Daryl F. Gates1


Rodney Glenn King is a big man—225 pounds draped uneasily over a six foot, three-inch frame. His curriculum vitae is not uncommon in the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. He has a reading disability, is a high-school dropout (six months before graduating from John Muir High in Pasadena), is married (wife Crystal and two sons), is an unemployed construction worker, and a jailbird. In November 1989, Rodney King robbed a Korean grocer in Monterey Park of $200 (his weapon was a two-foot-long tire iron), and was caught ten days later because the grocer was able to write down the license number of his white Hyundai as he drove away from the scene of the crime. Rodney King was arrested, pleaded guilty to robbery two, and as a first offender was sentenced to two years in the state penitentiary at Susanville, one of the lesser of the twenty-three California slammers, but still no country club.

With time off both for time served and for good time (one day off the sentence for every good day served; a good day, considering the overcrowded state of California’s prisons—84,000 inmates in a system with room for 48,0002—is essentially a day when the prisoner is not caught knifing someone), Rodney King did a year and was paroled two days after Christmas 1990. A week later he found work as a temporary laborer at Dodger Stadium. Late on the evening of Saturday March 2, 1991, Rodney King, twenty-five, barely two months out of Susanville, mellow with booze and marijuana (both parole violations), hopped into that same white Hyundai with two friends, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, and headed north on the Foothill Freeway, boredom their companion, destination unknown, just cruising around to see what the night might bring. It was a ride whose conclusion would send shock waves not just through the city and county of Los Angeles, but around the world as well.3

Shortly after midnight—it was now March 3—a husband-and-wife team of California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers, Melanie and Timothy Singer, saw the Hyundai traveling at a high rate of speed, upward of 100 mph. Turning on their siren and emergency lights, the Singers gave chase, first on the freeway and then on the surface streets of Pacoima. Mistakenly afraid (as he later claimed) that a speeding bust was a parole violation that could send him back to prison, Rodney King ran a series of red lights on Foothill Boulevard and did not slow down. By now two patrol cars from the Foothill Division of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had joined the pursuit, which continued until Rodney King finally pulled to a stop at a red light in Lake View Terrace, at the corner of Foothill and Osborne, across from the Mountain Back Apartments. One of the LAPD cars radioed “Code 6,” indicating that the chase had concluded. Following “felony stop” procedures, Timothy…

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