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The LAPD: Chief Gates

Former LAPD Chief Daryl F. Gates Dies at 83

One major crisis after another greeted Daryl F. Gates as the new Chief. Not least among them was the passage of Proposition 13 and the resultant slashing of the Department’s budget. By 1985, authorized sworn personnel had been reduced to 6,900. During the same time period, New York had 28,700 officers and Chicago had 12,399. Doing more with less became mandatory at a time when the City’s population surpassed Chicago’s to become the nation’s second largest, and when Hispanics and Asians by the hundreds of thousands were relocating to Los Angeles.

The Chief assumed the responsibility of directing two events of international importance. In July and August of 1984 the City was to host the XXIII Summer Olympic Games, and in September 1987, Pope John Paul II was our guest for two days. On each occasion, the response of the Police Department in anticipation of terrorist activity, traffic jams, and crowd control was exemplary. At the conclusion of the Olympic Games, Chief Gates was able to comment as follows:

"What occurred proved to all the world that a free society can protect itself; that local law enforcement is capable of securing the safety of millions without federal or military control and direction and that individual police officers, by reason of a commitment to courtesy and professional pride, can win the confidence and friendship of a grateful public.

"History has recorded no other Olympiad when so much was demanded of a police department, when apprehensions of the doubters were so prevalent or when those fears were so thoroughly dispelled. It was a monumental undertaking. It was necessary to mobilize the Department for 33 days, coordinate Olympic assignments with regular patrol and traffic assignments and supply, equip and feed personnel for the biggest and longest unusual occurrence in Department history. The security measures were the most complex and exacting of any past Olympic Games. The planning effort had continued for over five and a half years. Subject to ever-changing conditions, it was developed in detail and flawlessly implemented. And this is what happened: Not a single act of terrorism occurred. Not one. We proved what a well staffed and adequately equipped police agency can accomplish."

In 1987, the two most disturbing problems facing the Department were narcotics trafficking and street gang violence. While enormous confiscation of drugs, cash, and weapons were increasingly made, Chief Gates spoke often and loudly about the "deadly plague invading our shores." More than half of all murders and bank robberies were narcotics related; 200 street and 10 motorcycle gangs infested the City with members in the thousands, committing 205 homicides, 1,711 robberies, 2,574 felonious assaults and 117 rapes. There were more than 5,000 victims of these and other gang-related crimes.

In the war against narcotics, Chief Gates contributed a concept and program of historic significance to law enforcement through his creation of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. DARE was based on his contention that the present generation had already surrendered to drug dependency and that the country’s future lies with the readiness of our children to resist involvement. It is to this end, that DARE has been activated at home and abroad.

The Chief took equal pride in his origination of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, which he pioneered in 1972 while in a command position. The LAPD since then has scrupulously selected and trained all specialists assigned to SWAT operations.

In doing more with less, Chief Gates turned to the residents of Los Angeles by recruiting volunteers to assist the Department. The old and young responded by the thousands, permitting sworn personnel to meet more pressing duties. They ranged from uniformed line reservists to youngsters enrolled in Deputy Auxiliary Police activities to clerical workers. They constituted 94 different groups with 55,305 members not including about 3,000 Block Club captains attached to Neighborhood Watch programs. Volunteers contributed 172,210 hours of time in 1987 or more than 21,500 8-hour days.

Fourteen years of planning and research culminated in 1983 with the activation of what was the most sophisticated communications system available to law enforcement anywhere in the world. Known as the Emergency Command Control Communications System (ECCCS), its primary feature provided greatly accelerated response to citizen calls for service via computers installed in black and white patrol vehicles.

By 1983, more than 1,300 officers, sorely needed in the field, had been replaced by civilian employees. Supply, Records & Identification, Automated Information, Fiscal Operations and Motor Transport Divisions had civilian commanding officers, in addition to Fiscal Support Bureau. Behavioral Science Section was headed by a civilian officer-in-charge, as was Public Affairs Section. Citywide communications was staffed largely by Police Service Representatives, a classification implemented in 1981 with the hiring of 238 civilians. All were employed in non-enforcement police operations heretofore performed by sworn personnel. The Department had about 2,500 authorized civilian positions. Most were clerical, but their number included specialists assigned to Scientific Investigation, Jail, and Property Divisions.

The court-mandated integration of public schools (and in 1983 Los Angeles had more than any other American city) occurred early in the chief’s incumbency. The busing of students by the tens of thousands took place without one major incident, another example of the public working with the Department.

From the day he took office, Daryl F. Gates won the solid support of the people of Los Angeles by virtue of his patience, dedicated leadership, and perseverance in meeting and solving enormous problems. The Board of Police Commissioners and City Council entrusted him with the management of a budget in excess of $419,500,000 and command of over 7,200 sworn personnel and nearly 2,500 civilian employees. In his own way, Chief Gates took a place alongside William H. Parker and John M. Glass as the answer to their troubled times.

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