This is a photo of former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates at the Los Angeles Police Academy in Elysian Park.
As a city councilman during Daryl Gates' tenure, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky often battled the police chief. He sees his old adversary in a different light today.
The Los Angeles Police Department is hosting a closed-casket viewing for former Chief Daryl Gates Monday inside the auditorium of its new downtown headquarters. It runs from noon until 8 p.m. Gates died April 16, 2010, after a bout with bladder cancer. He was 83.
Cops before him started the unit, but Gates eagerly backed the Los Angeles Police Department’s Public Disorder Intelligence Division. Ostensibly, its job was to keep watch on potentially dangerous people and organizations.
“One of those very dangerous people was yours truly," Yaroslavsky said. "There was a file on me. They denied they had a file on me.”
Former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates, who is notable for his formation of the LAPD SWAT team and for being forced into retirement following the 1992 riots, died from complications of bladder cancer today. He was 83.
KPCC's Frank Stoltze interviewed a Los Angeles lieutenant about the chief's life and influence on the police department.
Other targets included black activists, communists and journalists.
At the time, Yaroslavsky was a Los Angeles City Councilman.
“Some sergeant in the Public Disorder Intelligence Division actually spent city time, city money, in his garage collecting information about me,” Yaroslavsky said.
Yaroslavsky and Gates were famous for their public battles – over police spying, police brutality and the department’s slowness to fill its ranks with women and minorities.
That's why it might surprise many to hear how Yaroslavsky talks about the chief he once called a megalomaniac.
“I liked Daryl. On a personal level. You couldn’t help but like him."
Yaroslavsky said Gates could be charming. He said the former chief always agreed to help with charity events, including one where the two raced to raise money for an injured girl. The two were an attraction, Yaroslavsky said. And Gates was willing to play on that to raise funds.
Yaroslavsky recalled as often serene the man known for lashing out at his critics.
“I never heard him swear to me, I never saw him lose his cool. He didn’t show a lot of emotion. He was very reserved," he said.
He also sensed there was more. "You got the feeling he was holding things inside.”
Yaroslavsky said Gates made important contributions to the police department, including the development of the SWAT unit and the DARE anti-drug program. Police departments across the country adopted both concepts.
Yaroslavksy had a front row seat to Gates’ reign as chief from 1978 until 1992. He reflected on the chief’s comment that black people don’t respond to police chokeholds the way “normal people” do.
“Many inferred from his comments that he didn’t consider African-Americans normal people. Obviously, that’s not what he meant. I knew it and I think anybody that had a brain in his head knew. But that’s not how it came out," he said. "I actually felt sorry for him.”
Yaroslavksy, who fought to ban the chokehold, believes that Gates was blunt, often misunderstood, but not racist.
“I think you have to differentiate from persons who beat the crap out of people – that was not him," Yaroslavsky said. "I don’t think he was as sensitive to how times were changing and how the tactics also should have changed with the times.”
For many African-Americans and Latinos in L.A., Gates led a force that routinely harassed and sometimes brutalized them.
One of his staunchest critics at the time may not argue with that, but Yaroslavsky recoils from the blistering criticism he’s heard about Gates since his death a week ago Friday.
“He was not an evil man. The department did some things that were unconscionable. But that’s the department.”
At the same time, it was the department that Daryl Gates led.