Riots20 - History, voices, lessons of the Rodney King Riots - Off-Ramp for April 28, 2012

Historian Joe Domanick: The LAPD's culpability in the LA Riots

Journalist and historian Joe Domanick at the new LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

Journalist and historian Joe Domanick takes Off-Ramp listeners to Parker Center, the L.A. Times building, and the new LAPD Headquarters building – three places he sees as crucial to understanding why the 1992 L.A. Riots happened.

According to Domanick, author of "To Protect and To Serve," a narrative history of the LAPD and the forthcoming "Road to Reckoning: the Collapse and Reformation of the LAPD," says Parker Center embodied the glory years for the force, which Chief Darrell Gates viewed as America's police force. But it was through the back door of Parker Center that Gates slipped out on the night the riots started. Astoundingly, so he could attend a Brentwood fundraiser aimed at fighting an initiative to limit the chief's power. But, Domanick says, Gates had no plan to implement that day; he didn't seem to think the people would rise up against him.

The L.A. Times used to back the police department, but slowly, after groundbreaking work by other outlets, notably the late Herald-Examiner, began to document the LAPD's abuses.

The new HQ is a symbol of the new force, reformed by former Chief Bill Bratton and now headed by Charlie Beck. Domanick says the signs, so far, are very good that the bad old days are over.

Excerpt from "Road to Reckoning: The Collapse and Reformation of the LAPD" by Joe Domanick

Joe Domanick is associate director of the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College, City University of New York.


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