FBI Director William Sessions Thursday said the police beating incident in Los Angeles could be classified as a "hate crime."

Touting the bureau's new method for reporting hate crimes at a news conference, Sessions said he would not discuss details of the Los Angeles case.But he did say that, on the basis of the issuance of indictments and what he saw on the videotape, he thought the beating of motorist Rodney King appeared to be a hate crime.

"I would presume that that would be so," Sessions said.

The reporting system for hate crimes was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Bush last year. It requires the federal government to collect information from local departments on crimes of hate, involving bigotry, racial prejudice or other kinds of discriminatory factors.

Sessions, who appeared Thursday morning with Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jim Turner of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said the Los Angeles incident makes the task of police departments more difficult in dealing with hate crimes because of what it does to their credibility.

"Yes, of course, it is damaging," Sessions conceded.