Police

Consensus Liberalism Was the Root Cause of Daryl Gates

|

Daryl Gates explores the root cause of tagging.

Former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates, best known for presiding over the controversial department during the Rodney King riot of 1992, has died. As Connie Rice, the L.A. lawyer, activist, irresistable temptress and second cousin of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said on the radio a moment ago, condolences to his family and the LAPD family.

The one time I spoke with Gates he was a great gentleman and an extremely interesting conversationalist, but I have no wish to defend his complex legacy. His notoriety stems chiefly from two points: his role in the militarization of policing and the abysmal criminal justice situation in South L.A. that set the stage for the 1992 riot. On the first point, it's fair to note that by the time Gates became chief in 1978, the S.W.A.T. organization had been a fixture of the LAPD for ten years, and the TV show S.W.A.T. had already been off the air for two. The LAPD's toxic racist history too was something Gates largely inherited. While nobody's on their oath when giving a eulogy, everybody I've ever talked to who knew him well maintain that, while he may have been "racially clueless" in Rice's words, Gates was not a bigot.

In fact, while Gates has never been much of a presence in Reason's pages, our past references to him give a clue to why the image of Gates as a rightwing troglodyte has always been inaccurate. Brian Doherty discusses the fight over the Gates-implemented "Special Order 40," which discourages officers from probing the immigration status of civilians. Renee Moilanen takes a hit off Project D.A.R.E., the wildly popular (if never actually succesful) program Gates started in the early eighties. And Fred Siegel looks at the primacy of group identity politics in law enforcement issues during Gates' administration.

What do all these things have in common? They all to some degree come out of the technocratic, "root causes of crime" sociology that held sway for a long chunk of the postwar era, and has never really gone away. Gates successor Bernard Parks, in a very gracious remembrance this morning, singled out the chief's zeal to put these ideas into action:

"He was the first person to talk about impact, prevention, and education, through efforts like the D.A.R.E. program, which may someday cut the tide of young people going into criminal justice system."

Parks went on to praise Gates' innovations in organization and technology, and these may end up being a more lasting legacy. But Gates' fondness for intervention and his belief in maximum force stem from the same fallacy: the idea that through better technical management you can impose positive outcomes on society. It sounds good in principle, but breaks down when you apply it to people whose job is to work with lowlifes in order to catch criminals. Gates may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of the liberal technocratic consensus, but he was an appropriate person to have in charge when the whole idea blew up.

NEXT: Recently at Reason.tv: Taxes—The Price We Pay For Civilization

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. He helped coverup the CIA shipping the crack into the ghetto. Fuckem

  2. I despised Gates, but to some extent he was a victim of the desire of Los Angeles to have a police state without actually hiring enough police. Since he was undermanned relative to other big city police forces, he did the math and figured out that to fulfill the missions he was given militarization was the only answer. He had to terrorize the population because terror was the best force multiplier available to him.

  3. So militarization and “his belief in maximum force” are now liberal concepts? Square meet circle.

    1. Someone needs to learn how to read…

    2. Please. They were invented in notorious conservative hotbeds like LA, New York and Chicago in the heady conservative era of 1967-1980. Obviously some form of Conservative/Christianist/NeoCon conspiracy.

    3. Of course not.

      But illiberal leftists like to masquerade under the l-word as though the two concepts were synonymous, and people have basically let them get away with it.

  4. Fuck him and his Kiss-The-Pavement style of policing. Another piece of shit off my list.

    1. Ah come on, can’t we all just get along.

      First! Rodney King reference.

      1. No. I’d say Troy was with his “Kiss-The-Pavement style of policing” comment.

        1. No way, man. My comment has a direct Rodney King quote, that just about everybody knows. It could be argued that Troy’s comment was an indirect allusion to the policing methods of the lapd under Gates which led to Mr. King’s beating.

          First! Post ever in the history of the intertubes defending a Rodney King “First!”.

          Booyah

          1. I don’t think there was anything indirect about Gates’s policing style. It is because assholes like him that pigs strut and preen around differentiating between “us and the civilians.”

            On an aside. I saw that Rodney King interview as it happened. It brought tears to my eyes.

            Oh yeah, like NeoCat reminded, this prick suggested casual drug users be summarily executed. I wish I knew where his grave was so I could smoke a joint over it then shit all over it. Fuck him.

  5. Didn’t Gates suggest casual drugs users should be summarily executed?

    RIP, asshole.

    1. Yep. “He once told a congressional committee that drug users should be shot.

      I’ll omit comment about what I think about this… person, except to say that it’s one of the few times I wish those who believe in eternal hell were right.

  6. “But [$GOVT_OFFICIAL]’s fondness for intervention and his belief in maximum force stem from the same fallacy: the idea that through better technical management you can impose positive outcomes on society.”

    Pretty much sums up my problem with American civil programs in general and law enforcement in particular.

  7. So militarization and “his belief in maximum force” are now liberal concepts?

    Welcome to America, strange traveler from the past! You’re drafted.

  8. But Gates’ fondness for intervention and his belief in maximum force

    This makes him a pretty decent mix of both sides of the political spectrum. He believes that we can prevent crime if we intervene into the lives of ‘at-risk’ children, but he believes that once a crime has occurred, we go in guns a blazing with battering rams and SWAT teams.

    That’s how you probably get picked as a police chief in most major cities.

    Well, except for Seattle… there are always exceptions.

  9. Man, what a handsome 80s suit.

  10. “He was the first person to talk about impact, prevention, and education, through efforts like the D.A.R.E. program, which may someday cut the tide of young people going into criminal justice system.”

    Hahahahah, wow, that’s rich. It hasn’t worked for an entire generation, but any day now…

  11. The one time I spoke with Gates he was a great gentleman and an extremely interesting conversationalist

    The one time I met him, he told me about meeting Malcolm X. I really wish I could remember the details.

  12. “Special Order 40,” which discourages officers from probing the immigration status of civilians.

    Sounds like militarization has gone far beyond the realm of policing. Now, even journalists are militarized!

  13. Also, fuck Daryl Gates.

  14. There’s a lot left unexplained and undefended here. If you’re going to say that the man was summoned up by the liberal consensus, you really ought to say what the consensus was, how it worked, and how he manifested it. Otherwise I can’t make head or tail of this!

    1. It’s not often I write in a way that is comprehensible, but in this case it’s pretty clear. “Liberal consensus” = “the technocratic, ‘root causes of crime’ sociology that held sway for a long chunk of the postwar era, and has never really gone away.”

  15. What a bizarre photo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a law enforcer posing in front of one of the things they’re typically tasked with preventing.

  16. I don’t know enough about Gates to defend or attack him (except to say that D.A.R.E. was/is drivel), but I think the post might have noted that, for whatever reason, crime is way down in LA these days. Because of Gates? Because he’s gone? Does Parks feel he’s following in Gates’ footsteps?

    1. Well I’m a pretty big William Bratton fan, so I’m inclined to give him the bulk of the credit.

      Parks I believe was genuinely fond of Gates, who helped out his career in various ways. Parks is very anti-Bratton. Some of that is easily explained as sour grapes, but there is one sorta credible pro-Parks scenario: that Parks was the martinet/disciplinarian the department needed, who even enforced arcane rules like the one that helicopter pilots have to stay above a certain altitude. (As a Hollywood resident, I was surprised to learn that pilots were not getting bonuses for staying below a certain altitude, so long as they keep their aircraft directly above my building.) As a result of Parks’ stern shaping up, Bratton inherited a much more lawful force, and he got all the kudos that went with that.

      Against this scenario is the Ramparts scandal, which erupted on Parks’ watch. But I really like Parks personally, so I’m inclined to think there’s something to his version. (Which he never states explicitly, I should add.)

      In support of the idea that Parks was or wants to be thought of as the true shaper-up of the LAPD, when he was praising Gates this morning, one of his pro-Gates observations was: “He was certainly not someone who was light on discipline.”

  17. Ooh a new reason girl ad meow. She looks happier in this one.

  18. Here, Kids! Have a little fun in memory of Chief Gates!

  19. It’s probably not a very well known fact that Gates was instrumental in the design of a computer game, although it sold pretty well at the time. (This is something he did after he left the LAPD.)

    I will say that after working with this man for a long time.

    He was not a racist. Perhaps his approach to issues of race was not what we want to see in this “PC” world, but he gave every man a chance and did not judge others by the color of their skin. He was a product of an earlier age, but understood this wasn’t the 50’s anymore and didn’t talk about the “colored” or otherwise show the racial bias that most of us know was common amongst our own parents and grandparents.

    As one might imagine, in a company where computer games were made, we had a lot of artists, programmers and creative types of many ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations, and we also had the issue of casual drug use since they tended to be younger people. I can tell you that Gates was courteous to them all and cared about people – even when he thought they were making bad personal decisions. He was quite fatherly in many ways.

    I truly believe that Gates tried his best each day to make Los Angeles a better place while he worked for LAPD, and I know his heart was in the right place when he started DARE. (Some above call it ineffective ‘drivel” but I believe it had more impact per dollar than just about any other aspect of the “war on drugs” that one might point to.)

    I guess I have to question why, which so many levels of management above him and so many levels of management between him and the officers at the center of the Rodney King incident, he was the one that was demonized by the press and political groups after the LA Riots. I asked Daryl about this once, and he basically sidestepped the question, but when I brought it up to a friend of his later, I was told that when you look through the command chain at LAPD, there were actually very few white faces. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s something to think about.

    You haters can believe what you want, but as someone who actually knew Chief Gates I will go to my grave believing that he was a good man who gave much to his city and his country.

    I frankly doubt that any of those so anxious to spit on his grave would actually have been worthy to shine his shoes.

    1. A good man who believed that drug users should be shot. And had the power to make it happen. Fuck that authoritarian asshole.

    2. Heh, I remember PQ: Open Season for freaking me the hell out at a friend’s house. It was the part where you turn on the flashlight and jumped in the theater. Yikes.

  20. Hey Cavanaugh, nothing today about this?

  21. Mom always said, “If you can’t say anything good about someone don’t say anything at all.”

    ” ”

    … Hobbit

  22. He was the assistant chief of police during the Robert Kennedy assassination and the badly botched investigation, the destruction of evidence and perhaps framing of yet another patsy.

  23. The all time classic Gates quote had to be this one…

    “Blacks might be more likely to die from chokeholds because their arteries do not open as fast as they do on ‘normal people'”

  24. Regarding Plights “classic Gates Quote…”

    Show me anyone in the public spotlight for a a few years that hasn’t made a dumb comment be it Bush, Barrack, a Clinton or a Kennedy.

    And “Stopdrugwar” wants to put on a tin hat and get involved in other conspiracy theory.

    When you two die, perhaps others will grasp at straws to say such things about you. One can only hope.

    1. Show me anyone in the public spotlight for a a few years that hasn’t made a dumb comment

      Well, if everybody else is doing it, it must be right. Right?

  25. I think the essence of Gates, the only thing anyone should remember him for, is when, in the midst of the 1992 riots, as news helicopters relayed images of people fighting and businesses burning, he got on local TV and explained that the first priority was police officer safety.

    In other words, he had no clue, no idea at the most basic level, what a police force was for. Is it any surprise he was a tool?

  26. Gates opined that all pot smokers should be shot on sight.

    Roast in hell, Daryl. You and Harry Anslinger can take turns having pineapples shoved up your asses by Satan himself.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.