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2 Officers Guilty in King Case

April 20, 1993

Much has been made of the arrogance, swagger and shades of bigotry displayed by Sgt. Stacey Koon during the months that preceded his conviction. My own recollection of the officer, based on an experience that took place five years before the beating of Rodney King, conflicts with these impressions.

It was while doing research for the television series "Hill Street Blues" in May, 1986, that I spent six memorable hours with Koon, riding alongside him through the streets of South-Central, noting everything from how he approached and apprehended suspects to where he placed his pencil. Not once during the course of that "ride-along" did he betray any of the attributes that would later be his undoing. On the contrary, I was struck by the easygoing rapport he had with people on the street and by the remarkable tact he exercised in the face of unremitting crimes: murder, armed robbery and grand theft auto, to name just a few that occurred on his shift that night.

Six hours is hardly enough time to construct a profile of any individual. Even if it were, no amount of prior virtue can apologize for Koon's actions on March 3, 1991. But any tendency to depict him as a villainous renegade distorts the essence of Saturday's verdict: just punishment for a single deplorable act, not moral retribution for an unworthy cop.

DAVID KOEPPEL

Pacific Palisades

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