The career of Gates should not be celebrated. My sincere condolences to his family and those who loved him. Seriously. But LA Police Chief Daryl Gates didn't like to give breaks to other people. So why should I give him one?
Gates is still popular among conservative law-and-order types. Drugs on a block? Send in an armored tank. Casual drug users? "Taken out and shot." Oh, he later said those words were just "calculated hyperbole." You know, to get attention. Well he got mine.
I wonder what Daryl Gates's position would be when a 16-year-old punk punched one of his police officers? Probably charge him as an adult and throw away the key. If only that had happened to Gates when Gates was a young cop-punching punk we might have been saved from his rule. But Gates did not live by the Golden Rule.
Gates got a lot of breaks in life. It's not like Gates was born on third and thought he triple. It's more like he got on first after being hit by a pitch. Then advancing to second on a passed ball and stole third. Then he thought he hit a triple.
After not being charged with assault after punching a cop (break #1), Gates got his life in order. Military veteran Gates gets hired as a cop because of an affirmative action program for veterans (break #2). Soon, because of some unknown connections (at least unknown to me), he becomes the driver for Chief Parker (break #3).
There's no merit exam to become the chief's driver. Gates must have had a very good hook. The funny thing about commissioners' drivers is that they very often go on to become police commissioners. "Well," goes the joke I heard years ago from Bill Bratton, "Commissioners sure know how to pick the best drivers. That's why they always end up rising so quickly in the ranks!"
Based on Gates political connection (break #3), he becomes police chief (break #4). Now let's look at some of the lowlights of his 43-year police career, the last 14 of which he was in charge:
1) Gates pissed off just about everybody who wasn't white and conservative (which explains a good part of popularity among those who are).
2) Gates was a racist SOB. Exhibit A is his observation that black people's arteries don't open like "normal people." His apology, something about cardio-vascular disease, was even weirder. But there's more to his racism than just this one line.
3) Operation Hammer.
4) Gates set armored cars into troubled minority neighborhoods to "send a message." I'm not exactly certain what that message is.
5) Gates helped establish SWAT and police reliance on military weaponry. The jury is still out on whether a SWAT-like more-militaristic entity within police departments is good or bad, at least for small departments.
6) Gates helped establish D.A.R.E. The jury has settled this one. D.A.R.E. does not work. It actually increases drug use. Gates could not keep his own children drug free. Please don't trust him with yours.
7) He established C.R.A.S.H., the unit that gave Rampart a bad name and led to the worst police corruption/brutality/murder scandal in police history!
8) When the L.A. Riots broke out, Gates was nowhere to be found. I guess he had somewhere more important to be.
9) Many people, myself included, blame Gates for the LAPD's leaderless withdrawal from the initial trouble at Florence and Normandie. It was this withdrawal that almost killed Reginald Denny. It was this withdrawal that let much of the city go to hell.
Fifty-three people were killed and thousands injured. Hundred of millions of dollars in property destroyed. I think we've kind of forgotten just how big this was. The whole nation was on edge. This riots certainly had a big impact on me. On the day of the verdict I got out of the subway in Manhattan and saw a crowd of scared women running through the street holding their shoes in their hands. Somebody had gotten aggressive with a garbage can half a block away. I had thought we had left this "burn down our city" thing back in the early 1970s. The LA Riots woke me up and were one of the reasons I became interested in police.
10) Gates gave police "professionalism" a bad name by somehow convincing many people that only clean-cut white guys could be "professional" police. And also effed up the entire LAPD. He left a city in ashes and a police force mired in corruption and brutality. It took him 14 years as chief to accomplish all this.
The riots also broke the tacit agreement Gates had with the public. "You give me free reign to do what 'needs to be done,'" Gates basically said, "and I'll keep you safe by keeping 'them' in line." But the L.A. riots ended any charade of effective leadership. The Christopher Commission was pretty damning.
And once things did settle down, people wanted Gates out. It was only then that we learned he couldn't be fired. Such was the final ignominious legacy of the so-called "professional" movement in policing. The police had managed to completely separate themselves from the public and from politics. Hey, politics ain't perfect, but it's better than a Dictator Gates. And dig this irony: when the riots broke out, Gates was at a political fund raiser!
I'm not certain how the city finally got Gates to resign. I suppose they gave him a golden parachute or something (break #5). He never did apologize or accept any blame for his bad leadership. The closest he came was saying, "Clearly that night we should have gone down there and shot a few people.... In retrospect, that’s exactly what we should have done. We should have blown a few heads off."
L.A.'s mayor said Gates had, "brought Los Angeles to the brink of disaster just to satisfy his own ego." Gates later dismissed Rodney King as, "a no-good S.O.B. parolee who has never been able to find himself ever since."
Had Gates been a successful police leader, perhaps we could then debate the merits of his horrible public posture. No matter how good his get-tough hate-filled rhetoric makes some police feel, if you want the politically incorrect truth, here it is: Gates was a bad police chief; he failed at crime prevention; he failed at preventing scandal. His tough-talk tough-action approach never worked. It didn't work in his personal life (two failed marriages and a son lost to drug abuse). It didn't work in the city of Los Angeles.
When Gates became chief in 1978, there were 678 murders in L.A. After 14 years at the helm, homicides increased 61 percent (1,092 murders in 1992. The population increased about 20% during this time).
Gates was a racist, hypocritical, egoistical, affirmative-action baby. Worse than that, he was ineffective. Let me put it another way. Over the past 40 years the average number of murders per year without Gates in charge, 522. With Gates in charge? 876. Well done, Sir! Way to keep our city safe.
Daryl Gates is best remembered as a warning and not a role model. He didn't tell the truth other people were afraid to say. He misled the public, misled the police, and stoked hatred and racism.
Since Gates departure, homicides have gone down every year. In 2009 there were 315 murders.
"Just the facts, Sir. Date of birth and description of the looters?"