LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Twenty years ago Thursday, Los Angeles police officers were videotaped repeatedly striking Rodney King with batons after a car chase.

Chilling images of that now-infamous confrontation haunted the LAPD for years.

The 1992 acquittal of four white officers involved in King’s arrest sparked the worst race riots in the city’s history. By the time order was restored, more than 50 people had been killed and property loss was estimated at $1 billion.

Two of the officers were subsequently convicted and imprisoned following a federal civil rights trial.

The videotape of officers repeatedly hitting King as he writhed on the ground shocked the world. Then-police Chief Daryl Gates resigned and a commission headed by future U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher was formed to oversee a major overhaul of tactics and policies within the Los Angeles Police Department.

The LAPD’s image of integrity and professionalism would be tarnished even further by the revelations of rogue cop-turned-informant and inmate Rafael Perez, who accused his fellow anti- gang officers in the Rampart Division of fabricating evidence, framing suspects and shooting unarmed suspects.

An investigation into wrongdoing within the division led to dozens of convictions being overturned.

KNX 1070’s Bill Cooper reports Chief Charlie Beck says the LAPD has changed dramatically since those dark days.

Faced with potentially ruinous lawsuits brought by the U.S. government, city officials reluctantly agreed to allow federal oversight of the LAPD.

King was awarded $3.8 million as the result of a lawsuit stemming from the beating, and a judge ordered the city to provide an additional $1.6 million that he could use to pay his attorneys.

But King’s brushes with the law continued for years. He was arrested a number of times, including once in 1999 in San Bernardino County for allegedly roughing up his 16-year-old daughter and her mother.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (52)
  1. citizen says:

    same old L.A.P.D.

  2. Duh! says:

    “The videotape of officers repeatedly hitting King as he writhed on the ground shocked the world.”

    This really should say, “as he repeated tried to get up after being tased several times…”

    King would not comply with officer’s instructions to stay down and not being put down with a Taser usually indicates that the suspect is under the influence of some drug.

    He could have easily avoided the beating if he would have complied with the officer’s instructions.

    Watch the video. You can see him repeatedly trying to get up.

  3. mmusa says:

    Crime pays 3.8 M + 1.6 M….what do you think? No wornder we have so many hoodlums around.

  4. STH says:

    Crime pays? What crime did he committ to deserve that beating?

    1. leathernuts says:

      Wow, I guess the high speed chase he led the police on was because of his innocence.

  5. Buck says:

    Were is the parade for those brave cops they deserve it.

  6. Karen says:

    To this day, I could care less what happened to Rodney King. He evaded police and ignored their orders. He was driving while high on crack at speeds of over 100 mph. No, I could care less that the police used justifiable force to subdue this criminal. I can not understand why the national media gives him a platform. Gee, what a hero to be exalted.

    1. Guest says:

      That little car, four banger, only hit 100
      going down hill

      1. Karen says:

        That is not what was reported by the police. Nevertheless, RODNEY KING EVADED THE POLICE and that is a crime. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction which is a physical law that Rodney King learned the hard way.

    2. Lenny says:

      @ Karen
      So are you saying that the way in which Rodney King was apprehended based on the crimes he was committing at the time was warranted?

      1. Karen says:

        Lenny – I said the police used justifiable force so I am not certain I understand your question. If you note the police were acquitted of any wrongdoing by the state. I don’t give too much credence to the federal suit especially when our own President sues the state of Arizona.

      2. Lenny says:

        I just don’t see how repeatedly beating a defenceless man is justified.

      3. Duh! says:

        Lenny – How was he defenseless? He was not hand cuffed. The police knocked him to the ground when he refused to obey their instructions. He repeatedly tried to get up. He is not a small man. When a taser is ineffective against someone his size, you have to fear that he can do some pretty good damage if he got a hold of someone. So the more he tries to get up, the more force is justifiably used to try to keep him down because the amount of force used previously was not enough to keep him down. You would think that after getting hit a couple of times while trying to get up he would learn his lesson and stay down.

        It is simple logic. This doesn’t require a rocket scientist degree to understand.

      4. Lenny says:

        Duh- Your entitled to your opinion. I disagree with it.

        The man was and possibly still is a classless thug who should of stayed on the ground without question but please don’t try to convince me that the 4 trained officers at the scene could not contain 1 man especially when he was face down on the ground.

        He may have been able to avoid the beating but that doesn’t mean he should have received one.

        That is simple logic.

  7. icecream says:

    It’s a shame that those officers’ careers were ruined over politics.

    1. Karen says:

      I completely agree icecream. It’s a travesty of justice that A CRIMINAL has more rights THAN LAW ENFORCEMENT.

  8. Ida says:

    I agree that crime should be punished. But there’s a difference in being punished and being brutally beaten. I don’t want to believe that every possible criminal in every state of the union who resists arrest is handled in this manner. The punishment should fit the crime. For his crime, if what happened was justified, then what punishment is reserved for murderers, rapist, etc…….

    1. Karen says:


      This was already discussed in the STATE LAWSUIT and the officers USED JUSTIFIABLE FORCE per the state.

      Why is the media giving this CRIMINAL a platform? That is another travesty of justice.

  9. What a Shame! says:

    Every single one who commented on this has probably felt some type of anguish or unsettling feeling with L.A.P.D let’s be honest we’ve seen it a million times over but the silly thing is every single one of you defended the police here….really? I know he evaded police and commited some petty crime of speeding or what not but to literally pull someone out of their car and brutaly beat them to a pulp when he is unarmed is rather unfathomable! Of course he should be arrested, detained, booked whatever but I didn’t think attempted murder was a job discription of the L.A.P.D. Just sayin’

    1. icecream says:

      The “petty crime of speeding” that you inaccurately speak of was actually a vehicle pursuit that endangered the lives of EVERYONE that was on the road in the area at that time. Many innocent people have been maimed and killed by such criminals.

  10. icecream says:

    The “beating” was not punishment for any crimes. It was an effort to bring a non-compliant, resistive criminal offender into custody. If the police tell me to lay on the ground and not move, I will comply.

    1. Lenny says:

      I think 4 trained police officers could have used a more suitable tactic to apprehend 1 non compliant thug.

      1. Karen says:


        It is YOUR opinion, NOT a fact. The officers followed procedure and the reason I could care less what the police did to Rodney King is because King did not care less about the people KIND COULD HAVE KILLED when high on crack cocaine driving around So. Cal on the freeways. What about THEIR RIGHTS to peaceful enjoyment of public resources (the freeway)?

        It is YOUR OPINION because the state already ruled the officers WERE JUSTIFIED.

      2. Lenny says:

        Karen 4 trained police officers could have used a more suitable tactic to apprehend 1 non compliant thug.
        End of story.

      3. Karen says:

        I repeat Lenny. That is YOUR opinion, NOT A FACT.

        Maybe King should have let them cuff him and he wouldn’t have been hit.

        The bottom line is that THE POLICE WERE CLEARED OF WRONGDOING.

        King, on the other hand, remained a CRIMINAL.

        Why do you defend criminals?

      4. Lenny says:

        You continue to point out that it’s my opinion or that’s it’s not a fact.

        Karen I am well aware of that. Thank you.

        But in MY eyes the quintessential point remains that the 4 trained police officers could of used better tactics to apprehend King. You cannot tell me that once King was on the ground, with all their training and expertise, they couldn’t of handled the situation without beating him to a pulp. Just because the law proved that the force used was justified, it does not mean that they couldn’t of handled the situation better in the first place to prevent the beating from taking place.

        The law might suggest that a 20 year sentence for a child rapist is sufficient, do you agree with that?? Do you believe that once the rapist is free from jail that he has served his time and that he should be allowed to lead a normal life thereafter? I don’t and just because the law says it might be right it doesn’t mean that morally it is right and all to often people hide behind what is morally right because the law says something is justified.

        I know they are two contrasting issues but this is how I feel about it.

        And for the record, I do not defend criminals and haven’t in this case. I totally agree with you that RK is a rotten individual and he shouldn’t be given the platform that he is given by the media.

        Have a nice weekend Karen.


      5. Karen says:


        You need to examine why YOU defend a CRIMINAL. It’s scary. People who defend criminals look the other way on so many matters that are important to society.

        The bottom line is the state used justifiable force. If you are ever stopped by the police – DON’T RESIST ARREST – and you won’t be physically subdued.

        Think about that this weekend. Because the attittude that the CRIMINAL was right is PART OF THE PROBLEM – DEFINITELY NOT A SOLUTION.

      6. Lenny says:


        You clearly need to examine my comments in detail.

        You seem to have over looked a few points.

        Did you not read my analogy in my previous post?
        Did you not read my thoughts on RK in my previous post?

        And you clearly do not understand that the point I am making is that there were 4 trained police offices at the scene and between all 4 of them not one of them had the initiative to come up with a plan to hold the man down! Between them they didn’t have the foresight to strategically handle the situation without resorting to brutality.

        You continue to argue to that the force was justified. You stated that it was proven in court. I have not argued that point. My point is that before it got to that stage it could and most certainly should have been handled without the excessive force that was used.

        Sit down, watch the video again and ask yourself:  

        Is there a point in this scene where the police could have apprehended this criminal without resorting to striking him 50 plus times with a baton?

        I don’t think you can.

  11. icecream says:

    I’m sure they are open to any worthwhile suggestions.

    1. JD says:

      @ lenny it is you that needs to review the UNCUT tape of that night you ask why the four officer did not try to hold him down in some manner as opposed to useing the batons?? well had you ever seen the uncut version of the tape which i have and i was also at the scene i lived on that street at the time they DOG PILED him several times and he THREW ALL FOR OFFICERS OFF HIM SELF AT THE SAME TIME yes all four were on top of him and he THREW THEM OFF i can guess-ta-mate the combined weight of for grown men plus gear at above 700-800 pounds and he tossed them all off like rag dolls so i FULLY understand why they smacked him with the batons

      1. Lenny says:

        JD – sorry Im not calling you a liar but you can’t convince me that 4 officers couldn’t handled that situation better.

        50 plus hits is not required in my opinion.

        Between 4 trained cops there should have been a better strategy.

        And as I have said before that’s my opinion.

      2. Retired lawman says:

        lenny i am a retired officer was not there on this event you keep saying there had to be a better way to do this. in case you did not know there is LEVELS OF RESPONSE that we are allowed to use im not a retired california officer so i wont say what the levels are here but in az where i worked if you come up against a hostile person which king was for sure you start with a FIRM VOICE order him to do what you want frankly that one seldome works lol next we had MACE/PEPPER SPRAY what we did with that is clear then we had our BATON then our FIRE ARM so how do you perpose they handle this? clearly the STUN GUN/TAZER was in their bag of tools and they used it 3 times to no good result in arizona?? we would have shot him dead after the tazer did not work and he was still on his feet comming at us so please by all means tell me how you feel it would have been better done?? im not being sarcastic your the general public who we work for so your good ideas can be of use

      3. Lenny says:

        @ retired lawman.

        That’s not any easy question for me to answer as I have no Idea of the exact methods of training that officers receive.

        What I would say and I understand that it’s easy to do so when you have time to think about it is that I would looked at using a combination of restraining techniques and the use of the baton at the same time.

        Perhaps when he was on the floor, using a baton I would have pressed it with measured force against his head and the road and whilst doing so encourage my fellow officers, perhaps two of them to restrain a leg each with the other putting on the cuffs using a baton if required.

        To be honest lawman I’m well aware that might sound easy and might not have worked but I just feel that it was incorrect the way in which they went about it.

        Hopefully you will have read my previous posts and therefore understand that I am no way standing up for criminals because I am not , I just believe that there were points at that scene where excessive use was used.

        What do you think ? Do think that situation warranted 50 hits with a baton plus kicks etc?

      4. retired lawman says:

        at lenny yes i feel it was needed he was clearly high on something to take the pain of 3 tazers and all the baton hits as a cop who has been in simular cases i know if i had seen a huge man like him takeing all i could dish out and not drop then yes id nail his butt to
        as for your ideas they are good but realize this BATON TO HEAD WITH MY WEIGHT AND THE PAVEMENT = EXPLODED SKULL
        AND one man each leg and me at head with baton for force and 4th man cuffing DOES WORK ONLY if the person can be held still in this case he (king) was able to toss them about because he was so big and high on what ever so really you have to be there in their shoes to be able to judge and sadly few people in the GENERAL PUBLIC has been or ever will be to be able to understand the fear you feel when a big dude like that wont stop with all you dish out
        all a cop wants to do is make it home to the wife and kids and THAT is im sure what fuled the four officers that night

      5. Lenny says:

        @ Retired Lawman
        Ok then I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

        I’m not being obstinate it’s just how I feel about it.

        Easy to say when your not there in the heat of the moment but I look at that situation post tense and I consider this.

        1) Could this of been handled better? My view is yes.
        2) Would the same tactics be used again in that situation in the same manor? I don’t think so.

        That is where I draw my conclusion from.

        Thank you for serving the people. I salute you.


  12. JD says:

    i was there they tazed him 3 time and he kept comming they hit him with the batons he kept comeing his friends in the car got out and did and they were told and they just got arrested had i been a cop i would have shot him HE GOT WHAT HE DESERVED END OF STORY

    1. So what!! says:

      Yes he did!!!! 3.5 million……..

  13. This is for icecream says:

    First of all If the beatings weren’t for any crimes then the L.A.P.D. clearly violated his human rights. Second of all you also said it was an effort to bring a non-compliant, resistive criminal offender into custody. So the police have a right to try and murder someone to restrain them…please! especially when they are unarmed. What planet are you from? FYI he was in an old Hyundai which prob had a top speed of 80-90mph and on the freeway late at night with no one on the road thats how they almost got away with it. I know you don’t see it from my perpesctive but the next time you get pulled over by the L.A.P.D remember I’m praying for you. Have a wonderful day!

    1. icecream says:

      I always appreciate your sincere prayers. You have a wonderful day too.

  14. Lighten up! says:

    Remember it took Four viciously trained and armed police officers to even put a slight dent in unarmed Rodney King, that’s why this is History!!!

  15. citizen says:

    These cops decided judge, jury and carry out what type of punishment they belived was just. No one shuld be beat like a dog, I don’t if he try and run. Typical L.A.P.D.

  16. Temper,Temper says:

    It doesn’t matter who is trying to kill you police or not you have every right to defend your life period!!! He kept trying to get up to defend his life idiot! Let me see how well you comply when four armed officers are attempting to kill you!

  17. CAB says:

    Obey the law and you will never have to face such a situation. Even if you are wrongfully pulled over or detained, do what you are told and YOU WON’T GET HURT!!

  18. Bob says:

    This debate can go on and on some of you see it as justifable and other’s don’t because it was police brutality but Hypothetically had he been a Child Molester we would have all seen justice was not served they should have shot him. but that not being the case we have the left and the right debate time to move on.nothing to see here folks.

  19. OJ says:

    I think he should be taken out into the street and beat again!

  20. KC says:

    I was always sympathetic to how Rodney King was treated until a few years later when I saw the entire beating tape where it shows King charging the officers. I do believe if that part of the tape were shown the millions of times it was aired by the media, I don’t think the riots would have been anything like they were. Shame on the news media for it’s irresponsibility and it’s desire for sensationalism.

  21. Onclewillie says:

    Pretty obvious that Lenny’s years of experience in handling resisting suspects puts all of us to shame. Odd no one mentions that even in the federal trial, the judge held that the use of force went on for just seconds longer than necessary. I was never able to reconcile in my mind how an officer in the heat of the moment would have enough clearness to recognize the exact moment between compliance and non-compliance.

    The trial was a political sham and nothing else. The liberals in Los Angeles just had to punish someone and since they were unwilling to punish the thousands of colored rioters would did far more damage than a handful of cops, it was the cops that went to prison. They should have just shot him and had done with it.

  22. Karen says:

    I don’t know about Lenny, but when the police stop me, I stop. I am never beat because I COMPLY WITH POLICE ORDERS.

    By the way, that IS the law.

  23. krg says:

    TMZ is reporting he was pulled over THIS WEEK for reckless driving and given a citation for driving without a license. Still a loser and still a criminal.

  24. Arnold says:

    What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

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