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Daryl F. Gates

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Chief : My Life In The L.A.P.D.
Daryl Gates  More Info

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Daryl Francis Gates was born to a Mormon mother and a Catholic father in the Highland Park district of Los Angeles on August 30th, 1926; the family soon relocated to Glendale, where Gates spent most of his youth. The Great Depression had an impact on his early life: his father became an alcoholic after losing his job, and frequently ended up in the custody of the Glendale police. (Later in life, Gates often remarked on the taunts and harassment he received from schoolmates because of his father's behavior.) His mother had to support the family alone, often on little more than church and government welfare payments. Gates graduated from high school and joined the Navy in time to see action in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Shortly after leaving the Navy, he attended college on the GI Bill and married. At the time, a friend suggested that he join LAPD, which was conducting a recruitment drive among former servicemen. Gates dismissed the entreaty, later remarking that, at the time, he had no intention of becoming a "dumb cop."

LAPD career
Nevertheless, Gates joined the LAPD in 1949. Among his roles as an officer, Daryl Gates was picked to be the chauffeur for Chief William H. Parker. During his lengthy tenure as chief, Parker greatly reformed and streamlined the LAPD, bringing in changes to stamp out corruption and improve efficiency. In general, Parker's reforms had the effect of making LAPD a paramilitary body. To combat low-level corruption, one reform barred officers from having the same patrol area for more than 18 consecutive months. Another such change was to assign police according to the time of day and neighborhood where crimes were committed, a major departure from the operational practices of most departments of the time. (While Parker and his admirers deemed this to be a proactive approach, later critics of Parker's methods--community policing advocates, and most adherents to the "broken windows" hypothesis--saw this as an essentially reactive measure, and a predecessor to the "radio-chasing" that characterized police operations throughout the 1970s and 1980s.) Gates often remarked that he gained many administrative and professional insights from Parker during the hours they spent together each day.

Gates worked hard to prepare for his promotional exams, scoring first in the sergeant's exam and in every promotional exam thereafter. On his promotion to lieutenant, he rejoined Chief Parker as Parker's executive officer. He was promoted to captain and became responsible for intelligence, and by the time of the Watts riots in 1965 he was an inspector (overseeing the investigation of, among other crimes, the Manson Family murders and the Hillside Strangler case). Finally, on March 28, 1978, Daryl F. Gates became the 49th Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.


Gates is considered the father of SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics), which established specialized units dealing with hostage rescue and extreme situations involving armed and dangerous suspects. Ordinary line officers, with light armament, limited weapons training, and no instruction on group fighting techniques, had been shown to be ineffective in combating snipers, bank robberies by heavily armed persons, and other high-intensity situations. In 1965, Officer John Nelson came up with the idea to form a specially trained and equipped unit, intended to respond to and manage critical situations while minimizing police casualties. As an inspector, Gates approved this idea, and he formed a small select group of volunteer officers. The first SWAT team, which Gates had originally wanted to name "Special Weapons Attack Team," was born LAPD SWAT, D-Platoon of the Metro Division. This first SWAT unit was initially constituted as 15 teams of four men each, for a total staff of 60. These officers were given special status and benefits, but in return had to attend monthly training and serve as security for police facilities during episodes of civil unrest. SWAT was copied almost immediately by most US police departments, and is now used by law enforcement agencies throughout the world.

In Gates' autobiography, "Chief: My Life in the LAPD" (Bantam Books, 1992), he explained that he neither developed SWAT tactics nor its distinctive equipment. Gates wrote that he supported the concept, tried to empower his people to develop the concept, and lent them moral support.

Gates is also the founder of DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program designed to educate children about the dangers of substance abuse. DARE is currently used in schools worldwide, but its usefulness in combating drug usage is hotly debated. In particular, DARE's claims about marijuana have come under intense criticism.

Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH)
Gates's appointment as chief roughly coincided with the intensification of the war on drugs. A drug-related issue that had also come to the forefront at the time was gang violence, which paralyzed many of the neighborhoods (primarily impoverished and black or Hispanic) in which gangs held sway. In response, LAPD set up specialist gang units which gathered intelligence on and ran operations against gangs. These units were called Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums, abbreviated CRASH and immortalized in the 1988 Sean Penn/Robert Duvall film Colors. Gates' aggressive approach to the gang problem was effective in suppressing gang violence, but its indiscriminate nature led to numerous allegations of false arrest and allegations of a general LAPD disdain for young black and Latino men (q.v.). (Ironically, by this time the department had a significant percentage of minority officers.) Gates himself became a byword among some for excessive use of force by anti-gang units, and became a favorite lyrical target for gang-connected urban black rappers. Nevertheless, CRASH's approach was successful and remained in widespread use until the Rampart Division scandal of 1999 drew attention to some of its less savory aspects.

Force enlargement
Gates became chief at a time when LAPD had been ravaged by the fiscal damage wreaked by Proposition 13, the department having shrunk to only 7000 officers even as the city's population continued to rise. While LAPD had traditionally been a "lean and mean" department compared with other American police forces (a point of pride for Parker), traffic congestion and increased population density had begun to take a toll on the once-vaunted mobility of the average LAPD patrolman. Gates was thus eager to take more recruits, particularly for CRASH units, when the city made funds available. He later claimed that many officers recruited in the 1980s--a period in which LAPD was subject to a consent decree which set minimum quotas for hiring of women and minorities--were substandard. At the time, Gates remarked:

...If you don't have all of those quotas, you can't hire all the people you need. So you've got to make all of those quotas. And when that happens, you get somebody who is on the borderline, you'd say "Yes, he's black, or he's Hispanic, or it's a female, but we want to bring in these additional people when we have the opportunity. So we'll err on the side of, 'We'll take them and hope it works out.'" And we made some mistakes. No question about it, we have made some mistakes.

These and similar statements were frequently cited by commentators and activists accusing Gates of racism.

Administrative style and personality

Like his mentor Parker, Gates made every attempt to shield the force from political influences--for good and for ill. He publicly disdained community policing, usually electing not to work with community activists and prominent persons in communities in which LAPD was conducting major anti-gang operations. Coincidentally, at the time of the Rodney King beating, Gates was at a community policing conference. This tendency, a logical extension of the policies implemented by Parker that discouraged LAPD officers from becoming too enmeshed in the communities in which they served, did not serve him well politically: allegations of arrogance and racism plagued the department throughout his tenure, surfacing most strongly in the Christopher Commission report (q.v.) that marked the end of his career.

Operation Hammer

Many commentators criticised Gates for Operation Hammer, a policing operation conducted by the LAPD in South Los Angeles. After eight people were gunned down at a birthday party in a drive by shooting in 1987, Gates responded with an extremely aggressive sweep of South Los Angeles that involved 1000 officers at any given time. The operation lasted several years, with multiple sweeps, and resulted in over 25,000 arrests. (This was not unprecedented: during the run-up to the 1984 Summer Olympics, Mayor Tom Bradley allegedly ordered Gates to take all of the city's gang members--known and suspected--into custody, where they remained until shortly after the Games' conclusion.) As a vast majority of those arrested were never charged, Operation Hammer was roundly criticized by the left as a harassment operation whose chief goal was to intimidate young black and Hispanic men. LAPD soon developed a reputation among some in South Los Angeles as an "occupying force"; an excellent example of this perception can be seen in the video for NWA's "F**k tha Police," which depicts a white, mustachioed LAPD officer in mirrored sunglasses, swinging a nightstick from horseback. In an attempt to counter these negative images, Gates began a media blitz. In a PBS interview, when asked whether the local people in the minority areas expressed thanks to the police for their actions, he responded:

Sure. The good people did all the time. But the community activists? No. Absolutely not. We were out there oppressing whatever the community had to be, whether it was blacks, or Hispanics. We were oppressing them. Nonsense. We're out there trying to save their communities, trying to upgrade the quality of life of people...

A contemporary quote reflected his attitude toward the liberal consensus on civil liberties:

You know, we talk about civil rights violations. No one seems to talk about the civil rights violations of the good people out there . . . that are caused by gangs. Those gangs are so oppressive to those individuals who live within that community. All we talk about is have we violated the civil rights of these idiot gang members...

In general, Gates was neither politically adept nor media-savvy. While he prided himself on his "shoot from the hip" rhetoric, which endeared him to many of the rank-and-file officers, this attitude cost him dearly in terms of political support. LAPD began to experience severe personnel turnover in Gates' later years as officers grew weary of patrolling neighborhoods that viewed the department as "the biggest gang of them all," a major contributing factor to the administrative collapse that occurred during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Los Angeles riots

The 1992 Los Angeles riots brought an end to Gates's police career. Following the acquittal of the officers shown beating Rodney King on videotape, rioting broke out in Los Angeles. Within minutes of the announcement of the verdict, white truck driver Reginald Denny was dragged from his vehicle while stopped at the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues in South Los Angeles and severely beaten by several black teenagers as news helicopters hovered above. In a replay of the Watts riots 27 years earlier, the violence and looting were largely spontaneous. Blacks, Hispanics, and Koreans clashed for three days throughout South Los Angeles and Mid-Wilshire as news cameras beamed images of destruction to a world that still thought of Los Angeles as the safe, orderly, prosperous city that had hosted the 1984 Summer Games. Both LAPD and the National Guard failed to contain the riots, and order was not restored until active-duty Army troops (including the 7th Infantry Division) were deployed.

On the first evening of the riots, Gates told reporters that the situation would soon be under control, and attended a previously scheduled fundraising dinner. These actions led to charges that Gates was out of touch. General command-and-control failings in the entire LAPD hierarchy during the riots led to criticisms that he was incapable of managing his force. In the aftermath of the riots, local and national media printed and aired dozens of reports deeply critical of the LAPD under Gates, painting it as an army of racist beat cops accountable only to an arrogant leadership. While evidence of systematic racism among the rank-and-file and by Gates himself was not clear-cut, it was undeniable that the paramilitary approach he espoused was seriously lacking in certain areas. The Christopher Commission formed in the wake of the riots issued a report that was generally considered to be scathingly critical of the department, and to a lesser extent of Gates' management of it. Late in 1992, Gates finally resigned.

Post-LAPD career

Gates remained active after leaving the LAPD, working with Sierra to create the computer game Police Quest 4: Open Season, an adventure game set in Los Angeles where gamers play the role of a Robbery/Homicide detective trying to solve a series of brutal murders. He appears in the game as Chief of Police, and can be found on one of the top floors of Parker Center. In addition, Gates has been the principal consultant for Sierra's SWAT series, appearing in them as well. In 1993, Gates was a talk show host on KFI, replacing Tom Leykis. His tenure was short lived but he remains a frequent guest on talk radio, especially in regards to policing issues. Gates also runs an investigation company called CHIEF, and has made frequent appearances on television and radio shows.

After Bernard Parks was denied a second term as Chief of Police by Mayor James K. Hahn in 2002, Gates--then 75--told CNN that he was intending on applying for his old job as LAPD chief. As Hahn is the son of longtime Gates adversary Kenneth Hahn, the likelihood of a Gates appointment was effectively zero. This led Los Angeles media to ridicule Gates' announcement as a publicity stunt. Hahn eventually appointed William J. Bratton to head the department.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daryl_F._Gates

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