Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, in an interview published Sunday, said the videotape showing his officers savagely beating a man stopped for speeding made him physically ill, but he steadfastly refused calls to resign over the controversy.In a story published in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Gates said he was in Washington, D.C., when the amateur videotape first aired on local TV stations. He did not see it until it created a national furor and was shown on Cable News Network.
Gates said he has now seen the tape "too many times, more than I would like to count." But the first time, he said, was the worst.
"It made me physically ill," he said. When asked if he meant literally, he repeated, "physically ill."
Four Los Angeles police officers have been indicted on felony charges stemming from the March 3 incident, and 11 other officers who watched the attack are under criminal investigation.
The videotape, shot by an Altadena man who witnessed the incident, shows Rodney King, an unemployed carpenter, repeatedly being clubbed and kicked by the officers even though he did not appear to offer any resistance.
Since the incident, Gates has declined several media requests for interviews, but a Times reporter was allowed to be present during a meeting Gates called with The Times publisher and editors over his concern that the newspaper's editorials have been unfair.
Asked if he would heed the steady calls for his resignation, he said he would take the advice of his wife of 21 years, Sima, whom he calls "Sam."
"You think it's hard on me?" said Gates, 64. "Actually, I can handle it. But, boy, it's really tough on her. So, I asked her this morning. I said, `Sam, would you rather I quit?' She said, `Ab-so-lute-ly not. Ab-so-lute-ly not. You can't.' So that's my answer. Absolutely not."
Gates predicted his department would degenerate into chaos if he were to leave, with morale plummeting and top officers leaving. He said he will stay "because I need to stay."
"You know, in so many situations, I could be the good guy," Gates said sarcastically. "(But) my police officers would say, `Oh, man, the chief is selling us out.' "
Gates, who has been no stranger to controversy during his 13 years as police chief, said past controversies have been different because they have not affected the whole department the way this one has. In most cases, he said, officers are divided on their opinions.
"There are no divided opinions in this one," he said. "They all know it's bad."