The ’92 Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD

In July 1991, in the wake of the beating, Bradley formed the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, headed by attorney Warren Christopher, who would later become U.S. secretary of state.

The blue-ribbon panel issued a blistering report that detailed a pattern of racism and excessive force within the LAPD.

The outgrowth of the Christopher Commission was Proposition F, passed by voters in 1992, which put the chief of police and the LAPD under civilian control.

The beating and its aftermath – the LAPD was later found to be woefully unprepared for the riots – forced the retirement of longtime Chief Daryl Gates, whose controversial tenure was marked by allegations of racism and arrogance.

“Police chiefs now are considered civilian leaders of the city … having to maintain the support of the mayor,” Sonenshein said. “Two consecutive chiefs lost their jobs because they didn’t have the support of the mayor. That would have been unheard of.”

No one appears to be more aware of those changes than the current chief, Charlie Beck, a career law enforcement officer named to the position by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in late 2009.

“I don’t think there’s any other incident in modern times that certainly changed the Police Department and changed the city to the extent that the King incident did,” Beck said.

“We’re still responding to things that were put in place by the Christopher Commission, their recommendations, the Inspector General, the role of the Police Commission, even to the way I act as chief trying to be a nonpolitical chief. All that traces its way back to Rodney King.”

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