Southland leaders of nine Christian denominations and two branches of Judaism, in a joint statement on events following the March 3 videotaped police beating of Rodney G. King, called for an independent citizens' commission to recommend changes in law enforcement training and structures in light of "far too many instances of racial prejudice, bias and harassment directed against minorities."
In spite of their respect for the "decency of the great majority of our police," the clergy said they condemn "recent occurrences of police overreaction and sheer brutality . . . and the words and attitudes which lie behind them in the strongest possible terms."
The Los Angeles County Grand Jury, which is continuing its investigation, last week indicted four Los Angeles Police Department officers on charges related to the beating.
While the clergy did not join community voices calling for the resignation of Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, they said that top-level police attitudes must be a concern: "We do not believe that these serious problems can be solved by the discipline of those few who have been accidentally caught in evident criminal acts or by internal investigations and procedures."
The statement, issued by the Council of Religious Leaders, was signed by Catholic Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, Episcopal Bishop Frederick H. Borsch, United Methodist Bishop Jack M. Tuell, Lutheran Bishop Roger Anderson, Bishop E. Lynn Brown of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Revs. Rafael Aragon of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Emory Campbell of the American Baptist Churches, Teruo Kawata of the United Church of Christ and Irven and Pattie Stern of the Church of the Brethren. Rabbis signing the statement were Marvin Labinger and Lennard R. Thal who direct Conservative and Reform Judaism's regional synagogue organizations respectively.