At Parker Center, the downtown police headquarters, detectives applauded and cheered. They shouted "Yes!" and "Go get 'em!" as the verdicts were read. And at the Foothill station, where the whole ugly affair began last year, Officer Corina Smith raised her fist in the air and smiled.
"I'm elated, absolutely elated," said Smith, 27, a friend of defendant Laurence M. Powell. "I'm proud to be a Foothill officer, and I'm proud to be an LAPD officer. It's like this sick feeling is finally going to go away."
Throughout the city, most Los Angeles police officers greeted with quiet satisfaction the news that the four defendants in the Rodney G. King beating trial had been acquitted. Although a minority of officers said they were upset by the verdict, most said they felt vindicated after enduring more than a year of political turmoil and community outrage against police.
"I was happy for (the defendants), but I was also happy for me," said Kevin Jotz, a patrol officer at the Southeast Division in Watts. "I felt like, whew, now I can breathe. Now people won't say we're all bad. Now we won't get cursed out all the time."
For the 14 months since the videotaped incident first hit the airwaves, the officers of the Los Angeles Police Department have endured life under a microscope. A blue-ribbon panel was appointed to examine their conduct. Their chief has come under fire, and there have been dozens of demonstrations by people railing against police brutality.
On Wednesday, many officers said, it seemed their ordeal was finally over.
"There's no massive jubilation," said Sgt. Peter Vanson, a 12-year police veteran. "Mostly we're all in shock. The whole department has been through a lot in the last year. But, hopefully, it's all behind us now and we can all get on with our jobs."
For some, it was a time to reflect on the damage done to the department's reputation over the past year. Officer Rick Corpel, who patrols South-Central Los Angeles, doubted that the images of white police officers pummeling a black motorist will ever be erased from the public consciousness.
"We're all guilty, guilty by association," Corpel said. "The public reached its verdict a year ago. And that verdict is guilty. I know, I hear it out here everyday."
Many expressed anger that they would soon be under the command of a new chief, saying Chief Daryl F. Gates would never have been forced out if had not been for the King beating.
"There wouldn't have been pressure on Gates or so much pressure for an outsider to have been brought in" without the videotape, Detective Carlos Ramirez said at Parker Center.
In the hours and minutes before the verdict was read, tension was palpable at police facilities across the city. Sentries were posted outside many stations, a move not taken since the Gulf War. Desk officers were under instructions from police headquarters to keep reporters out of the stations.
Inside the stations, officers huddled quietly in roll-call conference rooms and watched as the proceedings unfolded on television.
At the Harbor Division in San Pedro, some officers seemed shocked by the verdicts--until the last minute, a guilty verdict had seemed inevitable. But Sgt. Danny Contreras said he was not surprised.
"I felt they were innocent," Contreras said. "Watching the video, listening to the testimony . . . and hearing what the defendants said in court," Contreras said, persuaded him that the beating was a violent, but unavoidable, incident.
"If you are not there" in the streets, Contreras said, "it's very hard to visualize what happens."
Not everyone, however, was pleased with the verdicts. Harbor Division Chief Timothy King seemed visibly upset after hearing the court clerk read the last "not guilty."
"I hate second-guessing people, but doggone it, I do not like what I saw on that video," said King, who before taking over the Harbor Division was charged with launching the Internal Affairs investigation of the King beating. "And I haven't heard any police officer say that what they saw was good and proper."
At the Foothill Division, the scene was as it was more than a year ago, when the chaotic, black-and-white images of the King beating were first broadcast around the world. Once again, officers watched as video cameras caught their colleagues in the spotlight of history.
Laurence M. Powell, Stacey C. Koon, Timothy E. Wind and Theodore J. Briseno--they are familiar names at the station. The officers worked there until a steady-handed amateur cameraman landed all four in police purgatory.
A host of other Foothill officers who stood by and watched the beating that fateful evening are still under investigation. "The only thing I can say is I'm breathless," said one of the officers who still faces possible disciplinary action, his voice trembling with emotion. He declined to be identified because he is about to face an internal police hearing for his role in the King incident.