Thursday, 22 April 2010


My obit of former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates is in today's (Friday's) Guardian, and already online, you can link to it here. It would have been nice to have gone into the popular representations of the LAPD, and how many of them either reflect Gates directly, his influence, or 'traditions' he knowingly carried on; Gates and Ellroy would probably be an essay in itself. My thanks to Mike Connelly for the quote, which reflected the image rather well. The only thing missing from the original copy that I miss was losing the description of the jury that acquitted the Rodney King defendants, remember it was crucial that the trial took place not in LA but in Simi Valley.

It would also have been nice to detail some of the other many scandals of the LAPD during the Gates era, but running through their litany would have taken too much space, and I think the point was made clearly enough--it was Los Angeles that changed, and of course the times changed as well, and Gates not only could not keep up with that change, some of his cherished theories of policing were being made obsolete even as he implemented them. I kept seeing Field Marshal Donald von Rumsfeld and his slimmed down high-tech modern army failing miserably to do what he said it was supposed to do. In fairness, when Reaganite California passed Proposition 13, limiting property taxes (think me first, tea party, neo-con, community-initative, there is no such thing as society etc) it did makes Gates' ideas of a small, mobile, high-tech force appealling to city government, if only from a cost point of view.

There is a revealing piece on the Gates legacy by former LA Times reporter David Cay Johnston at LA Observed, you can find that here. In some ways, LA is just like any other city, only unlike bigger, older (read: eastern or midwestern) cities where the power structure grew organically, in LA it was imposed by those who controlled thing in its early days, which made it in some ways more pervasively controlling, and likely more corrupt. I have the sense Gates laboured under the delusion that the popular culture image of LAPD was true, even knowing it wasn't, a sort of Reaganism made more virulent by his actually being in control of the delusion...

Speaking of delusions, there is a pretty funny Ali G interview with Gates, which you can see here

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