April 16, 2010 / 6:25 PM / 10 years ago

Former LA police chief Daryl Gates dies at 83

Undated photograph of former LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) Chief Daryl Gates is shown in this photograph released to Reuters on April 16, 2010. Gates died on Friday at 83. Gates was in charge at the time of the 1991 beating of Rodney King and the 1992 L.A. Riots that followed. REUTERS/LAPD/Handout

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Daryl Gates, the blunt former Los Angeles police chief best known for his handling of the Rodney King beating and 1992 race riots, died on Friday. He was 83.

Gates, who was chief of police in the United States’ second-largest city from 1978 to 1992, died of cancer at his home in Newport Beach, California, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a brief statement.

As chief during the 1980s, Gates earned a reputation for dealing with gangs, drugs and street crime with a mix of tough, paramilitary force and innovation, establishing the first Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, unit and deploying helicopters to help patrol the sprawling city.

But he came under fierce criticism after the violent March 3, 1991, arrest of Rodney King, a black parolee whose beating by Los Angeles police was captured on videotape and broadcast around the world as evidence of LAPD racism and brutality.

Four of the officers were put on trial for King’s beating and their acquittal in April 1992 by an all-white jury touched off three days of the worst urban riots in modern U.S. history, leaving 53 people dead.

Gates, who was roundly criticized for attending a fund-raising dinner in the first hours of rioting, came under heavy pressure to resign and stepped down in June of that year. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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