Patrol Car Log in Beating Released : Police: The officers’ messages include racial slurs about an earlier case. ‘A big time use of force’ against Rodney King is referred to in the transcript.
Los Angeles police officers accused in the beating of Rodney G. King, a black motorist stopped for speeding after a freeway pursuit, had made racial slurs about blacks involved in a previous incident and referred to the King arrest as “a big time use of force,” according to transcripts of patrol car computer messages made public Monday.
“I haven’t beaten anyone this bad in a long time,” read a computer message sent from the squad car assigned to officers Laurence M. Powell and Timothy Wind, both of whom were indicted last week in the videotaped assault.
It was not known which officer was operating the squad car computer, which Police Department personnel use to communicate with one another in the field.
Another message, sent from Powell’s and Wind’s car just before the King incident, described a domestic dispute involving African-Americans that the officers had handled as being “right out of ‘Gorillas in the Mist.’ ”
The squad car that received the message responded: “HaHaHaHa. Let me guess who be the parties.”
A Los Angeles police official investigating the King affair said the reference to “Gorillas in the Mist,” the title of a movie about ape research in Africa, and the usage of black dialect by white officers apparently had racial connotations. “Without drawing assumptions,” said Cmdr. Rick Dinse, “I am led to believe that is a racial comment.”
Release of the four pages of starkly worded police communiques immediately brought intensified complaints from Mayor Tom Bradley and civil rights leaders that King’s beating was racially motivated and extended from a pattern of abusive behavior by police toward blacks.
In a strongly worded statement issued by his staff late Monday night, Bradley--who had just arrived in Hawaii to press the city’s Super Bowl bid--decried what he called the “bigoted remarks” of the officers. The mayor said the comments “raise questions that are just as serious and disturbing” as the actual beating, which Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has repeatedly called “an aberration.”
Said Bradley: “It is no longer possible for any objective person to regard the King beating as an aberration. We must face the fact that there appears to be a dangerous trend of racially motivated incidents running through at least some segments of our Police Department.”
Said Police Commissioner Melanie Lomax: “The disappointment is in the minds of those who had hoped against hope that this did not appear to be something straight out of South Africa and the Deep South, as it appeared to be. Of course, that hope against hope turned out not to be the case.”
The LAPD released the police log hours after Bradley publicized a letter in which he instructed the Police Commission to make the information public as soon as possible. Bradley and several police commissioners had been informed of the nature of the computer messages last week by Gates.
Although the mayor’s staff had alerted Gates that the letter was coming, a Police Department spokesman said that did not prompt the chief to make the transcript public. According to Cmdr. Robert Gil, Gates wanted to release the information Friday, but was advised against doing so by Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, who cautioned that the material was part of the criminal investigation.
Reiner’s spokeswoman declined comment, citing the confidentiality of the grand jury probe. But both Gil and aides to Bradley said they learned Monday that Reiner was not opposed to making the information public.
The log shows a series of 19 messages sent during the 48 minutes surrounding the controversial videotaped beating of King, 25, an unemployed construction worker from Altadena on parole after a robbery conviction. The transmissions include those sent by Powell and Wind to foot patrol officers who were not at the March 3 beating in Lake View Terrace, as well as messages sent by Sgt. Stacy C. Koon--who was also indicted last week--to his watch commander’s desk.
Among them was the following exchange between Koon, who had fired a 50,000-volt Taser electric dart gun at King, and an unidentified officer who was sitting at the watch commander’s desk in the Foothill Division.
Koon: “You just had a big time use of force . . . tased and beat the suspect of CHP pursuit, Big time.”
Officer at desk: “Oh well . . . I’m sure the lizard didn’t deserve it . . . HAHA I’ll let them know, O.K.”
Koon then tells the other officer that he is going to return to the station “for a fresh taser and darts.”
Responds the desk: “Okey dok on the ACC (watch commander) desk . . . You want extra darts??? It’s got two.”
In a later exchange, the foot patrol officers in Sunland-Tujunga were told in a message from Powell’s and Wind’s car about the beating.
“Oops,” was the initial message from the car of Powell and Wind.
“Oops, what?” was the response.
“I haven’t beaten anyone this bad in a long time.”
The foot beat officers responded: “Oh not again. Why for you do that . . . I thought you agreed to chill out for a while . . . What did he do . . . “
“I think he was dusted . . . many broken bones later . . . after the pursuit,” was the message that came back.
Neither Powell nor Wind has been previously disciplined, and it was unclear what was meant by “not again.” Also unclear was the meaning of the word “dusted,” although police officials surmised it could have referred to the drug PCP--also known as angel dust. Authorities have said the officers at the scene thought King was on PCP, but toxicology tests later showed no evidence of drugs or alcohol.
In addition to the log, a second audiotape of the incident was made public by the Police Department on Monday. On the tape, either Powell or Wind--LAPD officials said they were not certain who--calls for an ambulance, saying police have a “victim.” Another voice interjects: “Of a beating.” The first officer is then heard chuckling.
Last week, a county grand jury indicted Koon, Powell, Wind and another officer, Theodore Briseno, on felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon and unnecessarily beating a suspect under color of authority.
Now, in an effort to see if more criminal charges can be brought, investigators are reviewing the actions of 11 other officers who watched the beating but did not intervene. A spokeswoman for Reiner said prosecutors expect to begin presenting additional evidence to the grand jury next week.
King suffered numerous injuries in the attack. According to police officials, King was hit between 53 and 56 times by officers wielding their batons. The bones holding his eye in its right socket were broken, and he suffered 11 broken bones at the base of his skull.
Black-and-white videotaped images of the beating, broadcast nationwide, sparked a public outcry over police misconduct, as well as calls for Gates’ resignation from minority activists and other public figures, among them conservative columnist George Will, U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.
On Monday, Gates arrived at work to find a surprise welcoming party of several hundred officers and civilian Police Department employees who lined the corridor to his office, clapping, waving yellow ribbons and chanting, “Gates Must Stay! Gates Must Stay!” Afterward, the chief reiterated his intention to hold on to his job.
Gates, who did not know of his officers’ computerized messages until about a week ago, has insisted from the outset that there was no evidence the beating of King was racially motivated. At a news conference several days after the beating, the chief said: “We can turn up absolutely nothing that would suggest that, except for the officers were white and the suspect was black.”
But civil rights activists said the log shows that LAPD officers apply a different set of standards when dealing with minorities.
“I think that this just further confirms everything that we have been saying,” said Danny Bakewell of the Brotherhood Crusade, an African-American civic group. “There seems to be a very methodical game plan as well as coded language within the LAPD when it comes to dealing with black people.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which has purchased newspaper advertisements calling for Gates to step down, released a statement accusing the chief of a cover-up.
“Police Chief Daryl Gates is guilty, just like his men, of a cover-up,” the statement said. “He had access to this transcript immediately after the attack. But he continued to insist that it was not a racist incident and that it was an aberration.”
According to police officials, the transcripts were pieced together during a weeklong process that involved retrieving computer messages and matching times with cars and officers. The computer system was installed in 1983 and was intended to reduce the amount of official radio traffic and to provide more accurate message exchanges. Use of the system for personal messages is a violation of department policy.
Times staff writers Leslie Berger, Hector Tobar and Richard A. Serrano contributed to this report.
POLICE COMMUNICATIONS TRANSCRIPT
Here is the transcript of computer transmissions between squad cars and the watch commander’s office of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Foothill Division beginning at 12:29 a.m. and ending at 1:17 a.m. on March 3--the morning Rodney King was beaten by officers at a traffic stop.
From unidentified foot patrol officers in Sunland-Tujunga to Officers Laurence M. Powell and Timothy Wind: What are you up to. . . . We are up on the rock with (cars) L170, 82 and A89 on top of some abandon house with narco and BFMV (burglary from motor vehicle) suspects in it . . . . We are waiting for them to hit some places.
From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol officers: . . . . Sounds almost exciting as our last call . . . . It was right out of Gorillas in the Mist.
From the foot patrol officers to Powell and Wind: . . . HaHaHaHa . . . . let me guess who be the parties.
From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol officers: . . . I’m just trying to get through the night cause then I’m off for six, count them six, days . . . time for some serious bike riding.
From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol officers: . . . Good guess.
From the foot patrol officers to Powell and Wind: . . . You can’t even get out of bed in the morning let alone bike ride . . . . I’ll believe that when I see it . . . . I have one more then I’m off for four.
From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol officers: . . . That’s where your wrong . . . . I was up at 12:30 today . . . I can’t sleep that’s the problem . . . . I need to get worn out.
From the foot patrol officer to Powell and Wind: But can you keep up . . . . HaHaHaHa . . . People better know we are talking about bicycling and not something else or they will begin to wonder what these messages are about HaHaHaHa.
From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol officer: Oh bicycling . . . Of course.
From emergency board operator to all units: CHP advises their officers are in pursuit of a vehicle failing to yield southbound Paxton-Foothill . . . . Vehicle is white Hyundai, license 2KFM102, now approaching Glenoaks . . . . Vehicle is now southbound Glenoaks-Paxton . . . now passing Sylmar . . . . Vehicle is now northbound Van Nuys-Bordon . . . . Foothill RTO (radio-telephone operator) is taking over the broadcasting of the pursuit (car) 16A23 (Powell and Wind) is the primary unit . . . . Now eastbound Van Nuys at Fulton . . . stopped at a light southbound Van Nuys at Foothill . . . two male black occupants . . . Vehicle still refusing to yield now eastbound Foothill at Osborne . . .
Powell and Wind then got out of their car to investigate on Foothill east of Osborne. One of them subsequently broadcast a Code 4, meaning sufficient units were on scene and suspects were in custody at 12:59.
From Sgt. Stacy C. Koon to Foothill watch commander’s office: . . . You just had a big time use of force . . . tased and beat the suspect of CHP pursuit, Big Time.
From watch commander’s office to Koon: Oh well . . . I’m sure the lizard didn’t deserve it . . . . HAHA I’ll let them know O.K.
From Koon to watch commander’s office: . . . I’m gonna drop by the station for a fresh taser and darts . . . please have the desk have one ready.
From watch commander’s office to Koon: Okey dok on the ACC desk . . . . You want extra darts??? It ‘ s got two.
From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol officer: . . . ooops.
From the foot patrol to Powell and Wind: ooops, what?
From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol: I haven’t beaten anyone this bad in a long time.
1:15 a.m. From the foot patrol to Powell and Wind: Oh not again . . . . Why for you do that. . . . I thought you agreed to chill out for awhile . . . . What did he do. . . .
From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol: I think he was dusted . . . many broken bones later . . . . After the pursuit . . . .
From the foot patrol to Powell and Wind: What pursuit. . . .
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