As jurors began their deliberations in the Rodney G. King beating trial Thursday, a videotape was broadcast throughout the Los Angeles Police Department in which Police Chief Daryl F. Gates urged "calm, maturity and professionalism" among his troops regardless of the verdict.
The carefully worded five-minute video began with a folksy but somber greeting by the chief, nattily attired in a blue pin-stripe suit and salmon-colored tie. "Howdy," he said, "I have something I think is very important and I'd like you to listen up.
"I know you're all interested in that verdict," Gates said. "Each of us has a strong feeling about what that verdict ought to be, but whatever those feelings are they have to be kept inside, professionally and personally, while you're doing your job."
Gates said the reminder was necessary because "there are those in the community, some of them supposedly leaders, who have indicated that if the jury renders a verdict not satisfactory to them . . . some kind of uprising, some kind of violence will erupt because of it."
"But it behooves you, whether you like it or whether you dislike it, to conduct yourselves in a very mature and responsible fashion, that you not show your personal views or even your professional views in a manner that will evoke any kind of reaction from the public.
"Your job is to go out and maintain order, maintain peace, maintain a calmness, maintain maturity, maintain a professionalism--that's your job," Gates said, "no matter what these other people are doing at that time."
Gates also said in his video that the department is prepared to keep the peace.
"You are all aware that we have looked into our contingency plans and we are ready, as we always are, for any emergency situation and we need to stay with that kind of readiness," Gates said. "So, let's do exactly that and hope . . . that justice is served and served appropriately."
Informed of Gates' message, Jose De Sosa, state president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, said: "This is something he should have been saying to these officers all along.
"It is unfortunate this is not the type of instruction given to officers at roll call daily because there has been a lack of professionalism in the LAPD for quite some time" among the department's managers, De Sosa said.
De Sosa also took issue with Gates' suggestion that certain community leaders may spark an uprising in the streets over dissatisfaction with the verdict.
"We have certainly heard the rumbling . . . about what could happen if the jury should come out in a manner that is not satisfactory to the African-American community," De Sosa said. "But the leaders in this community will gather the night of the decision to ensure that the community remain calm.
"Violence only hurts the people who live in that community," he said. "We don't want to see anyone injured."
City Councilman Michael Woo said he was disturbed by Gates' message because it seemed to "perpetuate the us-against-them attitude in the department."
"I think the words about being calm and professional were entirely justified," Woo said, "but beyond that the chief's words only perpetuate the divisive attitude of the Police Department toward the broader community."
The King jury began its deliberations early Thursday afternoon after the judge denied a request for a mistrial by one of the defense attorneys who complained that a prosecutor had "slimed" him in his closing argument.
The motion was made by Michael Stone, attorney for Officer Laurence M. Powell, who delivered the most numerous blows to King.
Stone complained that Deputy Dist. Atty Terry White, during his closing summary, had used a chart titled "The Big Lie" to show the jury alleged misrepresentations the attorney had made about evidence during his closing statement. The alleged inaccuracies dealt primarily with time sequences during a chase that preceded the March 3, 1991, beating in Lake View Terrace.
"I feel like I've been slimed," Stone told Judge Stanley M. Weisberg. "And I think the slime has landed on my client."
White told the judge Thursday that he did not try to lambaste Stone. "It is fair for the prosecution to point out misrepresentations," he said. "That is valid, and that is what I did."
In denying Stone's request for a mistrial, the judge said the defense attorney should have objected during White's closing argument, rather than sitting silent. He also noted that Stone never walked over to the jury box to view the chart.
After the debate over Stone's motion, the jury was ushered behind closed doors, where members deliberated for three hours before calling it a day. Not permitted to go home until they reach a verdict, the panel members were taken to an undisclosed location. They are scheduled to resume their deliberations this morning.