The ’92 Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD

Chase turns ugly

The incident began after King – who later admitted to driving drunk – refused to stop when California Highway Patrol officers tried to pull him over for erratic driving. The LAPD joined in the high-speed chase, which ended at Osborne Street and Foothill Boulevard in Lake View Terrace.

With a police helicopter hovering overhead, officers kicked, tasered and beat King, leaving him with crushed bones, shattered teeth, kidney damage and a fractured skull. The attack was captured by George Holliday, who lived nearby and grabbed his new video camera when he was awakened by police sirens.

“From the (minority) community perspective, the video validated years and years and years of complaints that this was the treatment that they were receiving and no one took action or believed that these things were going on,” said City Councilman Bernard Parks, a deputy chief of police at the time of the beating and later police chief.

Raphael Sonenshein, a political science professor at Cal State Fullerton, said the videotape gave then-Mayor Tom Bradley the power he needed to reform the Police Department.

“The LAPD was a political entity unto itself,” said Sonenshein, who has written three books on Los Angeles politics and government.

“Bradley sort of fought them to a draw up until the Rodney King beating, and it was the Rodney King beating … (that) gave him the political clout to finally win that battle.”

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