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.
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