Police Chief Daryl F. Gates vowed to fight the Police Commission's order to take paid leave while it investigates the videotaped beating of a black motorist by white officers.
The civilian panel ordered Gates on Thursday to take a 60-day paid leave while it examines the case of Rodney King, who was clubbed, stomped and shocked with a stun gun by police March 3 after a traffic stop. The incident, recorded on video by a plumber testing a new camera, was broadcast nationwide."I feel that I have been disgraced and defamed," Gates, 64, said after meeting with the commission. "I think it is illegal and inappropriate. We will seek redress in Superior Court."
Gates' lawyer Jay Grodin said he would file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the action, claiming the commisson overstepped its authority.
"I guarantee you I'm coming back," Gates said in a videotaped message that was to be shown to the department's officers during roll calls Friday.
Assistant Chief David Dotson, 57, who was named acting chief, declined comment on the action against Gates.
The commission said in a statement that "this action is not punitive in nature and results in no loss of pay or benefits. More importantly, it should not be taken by the public as reflecting any conclusion as to whether the chief should be charged or disciplined in the future."
Blacks and civil libertarians who called for Gates' ouster praised the move.
"I think that it's a sincere effort to mend the damage that has been done to the reputation of our city and our police force," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
"It is my hope that today's Police Commission action will give us all time to bridge the differences that have grown between us since the Rodney King incident," said Mayor Tom Bradley, who had sought Gates retirement.
Gates' supporters rallied to his defense.
"This is a lynching," said Councilman Hal Bernson.
"It is absolutely an act that is contrived and one manipulated by the mayor," said Lt. George Aliano, president of the police union.
Four police officers face trial on charges of felony assault in the beating. Another 17 police officers, as well as two California Highway Patrol officers and two school district police officers, are under investigation for watching the attack and not trying to stop it.