Last May The Times ran an extensive interview by columnist Patt Morrison with former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates. Here are additional excerpts from that interview:
You grew up and lived in L.A. Most of the officers now don't live in the city they patrol. Has that made a difference in their attitudes toward L.A., and vice versa?
Answer: The police officers mainly moved out of the city because they couldn't afford to live in the city. My view has always been [that] I think it's very hard to live in the area where they work. You're recognized as a Los Angeles police officer, your kids are recognized as the kids of a Los Angeles police officer. There's neighbor disputes, there's kid disputes, there's all kinds of things, and you're right in the middle of it. The healthiest situation is for a police officer to go into an area and then adopt that area as his area. The people there are his people. He's there to provide the protection and support those people. That's a healthy situation -- not living in that district.
You were opposed to integrating the department by consent decree.
[Integrating] by decree is dumb, absolutely dumb.
How has it worked in the long run?
[Former chief] Ed Davis was death against women [officers]. He fought it and fought it and fought it. When I became chief, the only thing I fought was lowering the height standard. I reduced it to 5 feet 7; I thought, that's far enough. And I resented the quota.
A recent example is SWAT. [Past chief Bill] Bratton saying, "I want a woman in SWAT, I want a woman in every part of this Police Department." I met that one woman in SWAT now -- she's awesome, she really is, and she's accepted. She would have been accepted regardless.
That's my opposition. I don't care whether [officers] are gay or not. If they're of good character, honest, and can handle the job mentally, physically, I don't care. What I didn't want, what I did not believe was appropriate, was for us to go out and recruit individuals on the basis of their sexual proclivities. We don't go out and say, "Are you a heterosexual or a homosexual?" I just think it's horrible to do that.
You spoke to a Times reporter years ago about your concern about whether straight officers would be uneasy with gay officers.
Ed Davis said that; I never said that.
If an officer knew another officer was gay, there was going to be some uneasiness, that's just the way it is. My point was that we shouldn't be identifying people who come on the department by their sexual interest. We aren't recruiting Catholics, we don't recruit Protestants, we don't recruit an individual on the basis of his sexual proclivities. [Then-councilman] Joel Wachs [who is gay], one of my biggest supporters and a great friend, just a super guy, he used to say, "Chief, we agree on just about everything, but can't you go out and recruit gays?" I said, "Would you use the fact that you're gay in your political campaigning?" "Well, no, but people know it." I said, "That's different. You don't go out and use it. You don't set yourself up as gay to get elected. And I don't want people setting themselves up as gay to get on the Police Department. I don't want that."
Here is the interview that ran May 23, 2009 :
At 82, Daryl F. Gates still looks as if he could pass the training physical for the Los Angeles Police Department, which he joined as a rookie 60 years ago and ran as chief for 14 years. When he says that his name was on the front page of The Times more than any other Californian during those years, he's probably right. Gates made headlines because he made waves. His legendary set-tos with politicians and the Police Commission were combustible theater. His tenure as chief overlapped Tom Bradley's as mayor, and there was no love lost between the two; by the 1992 riots, they weren't on speaking terms. Gates' LAPD career carried him from driver for Chief William H. Parker to Parker's right- hand man and heir. He was the last chief to earn the job through the civil service system; since Gates, chiefs have been appointed, with term limits. Now there's talk of lifting those term limits so the current chief, William J. Bratton, could stay on for five more years -- making his tenure one year longer than Gates'. When we met, he brought me a cup of Starbucks, and before I asked the first question, he referred to a 1982 Times story about his plan to ban one of two LAPD chokeholds. In seven years, 16 people had died in police chokeholds, 12 of them African American. Gates told The Times then he suspected some blacks had a medical condition that made them more susceptible than -- and this stirred an outcry for his resignation that never disappeared -- "normal people."
I'm going to use two tape recorders because I don't trust machines.
[The 1982] Times reporter really did me a very great injustice, and from that point on, I recorded everybody.