LA Riots Break Out


LAPD can’t keep a lid on the crowds

On April 29, 1992, four LAPD Officers were breathing a sigh of relief as a jury read the verdict in their assault trial.  They four had pursued and beaten Rodney King the year before and were on trial for their actions.  King received approximately 55 baton strikes from these four cops.  The whole thing was caught on video.

The four cops were the only ones in Los Angeles breathing a sigh of relief.  The rest of the residents of LA were on a knife’s edge.  The racial tensions in the city were ready to explode, and this was the spark that would trigger that explosion. 

The verdicts were announced at 3:15. By 3:45 the crowd outside the courthouse started to get unruly.  At the same time on Florence Avenue and Normandie a liquor store was ransacked and demolished.  A police foot pursuit and arrest at 71st and Normandie further angered the growing crowds in the area.  Bottles were soon being thrown and LAPD cops were ordered out of the area for their safety by their Lieutenant. 

By 6:00 pm the angry crowd had become a mob and were breading into stores.  The LAPD when back in to restore order, but it was too late…the LA Riots were on. 

The next three days would be a disaster for Los Angeles and the nation.  The National Guard had to be called in to restore order.  A total of 63 people died during the riots.  As many as 2,383 people were reported injured.   The Los Angeles Fire Department estimated 3,600 fires were set, destroying 1,100 buildings. Widespread looting and destruction of business occurred. Many of the stores that were destroyed were owned by Koreans, who were targeted by many of the rioters. 

The riots marked a turning point for the LAPD.  Reforms were initiated to reduce the use of force and to better track those instances.  Officer discipline was more transparent.  The reforms were helpful but not enough for the Department of Justice.  The issued a consent degree in 2001 to force their own changes. The decree lasted a remarkably long 12 years, finally ending in 2013.  

Christopher Flanagan


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