LAPD chief Charlie Beck writes in an LA Times op-ed piece that the riots 20 years ago were "a defining point in the history of the LAPD and, for me personally, a life-changing event. I knew in my heart then that we had to completely change the way we policed this city."
On that first night, the department failed to adequately fulfill its role of protecting and serving. Over the next six days, I saw terrible inhumanity committed against innocent people, and heroic actions by officers, firefighters and residents alike. As the arson fires burned out and the city began cleaning up the damage, I knew everything had changed.
Relations with the communities we served, especially minority communities, became ever more strained. The style of policing that LAPD leaders demanded of officers was seen by many residents as evidence of a prejudiced police force, an occupying army that treated people, especially minorities, with contempt and prejudice. The use of tactics such as the chokehold, hogtying of combative suspects and making young men sit on the curb while officers searched (in police parlance "tossed") their cars and pockets added further insult. The result was a city that was increasingly alienated from the police who were supposed to serve them. That alienation culminated in the worst civil unrest in Los Angeles history.
In the 20 years since, the LAPD has remade itself....The events of April 1992 taught us that no matter what we do, we cannot solve crime problems and improve living conditions in Los Angeles without the help, cooperation and trust of the community we serve.