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Top Valley Officer Apologizes for King Beating : Police: Some black and Latino community leaders urge the ouster of Foothill Division commander.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The San Fernando Valley’s top police administrator apologized Saturday for the Rodney G. King beating before black and Latino community leaders, who in turn called for the commander of the embattled Foothill Division police station to be replaced.

“From the bottom of my heart, I’m very sorry about what happened,” Deputy Chief Mark A. Kroeker said during the first in a series of community meetings aimed at restoring public confidence in the Los Angeles Police Department. “In my 26 years on the force, I have never experienced more remorse.”

Kroeker promised about 100 Pacoima and Lake View Terrace residents gathered at a Pacoima church that he would investigate all police brutality complaints brought to him and punish those who were responsible if they were found guilty. “We don’t engage in excessive force in the San Fernando Valley,” he said.

Thirty miles away, about 300 demonstrators gathered in front of police headquarters downtown for the third consecutive week to call for the ouster of Police Chief Daryl F. Gates over the highly publicized beating of the black motorist March 3 in Lake View Terrace.

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Elsewhere, an attorney for one of the four officers charged with felony crimes as a result of the King incident, which was videotaped by an amateur photographer, lashed out at Gates and others for publicly prejudging his client, Officer Theodore J. Briseno, jeopardizing his chance for a fair trial.

“This isn’t Baghdad,” said attorney John Barnett. “This is the U.S.A., where people get to have trials.”

During his 90-minute appearance at the Pacoima church, Kroeker, who was transferred to the Valley Bureau shortly after the King incident, often was interrupted by applause from the mainly supportive crowd. Although the beating has outraged large segments of the black community, the largely middle-aged to elderly people who attended Saturday’s meeting have a history of supporting the Los Angeles Police Department.

No questions about Gates’ future or specifically about the King beating were allowed by the meeting’s two organizers, the Ministers Fellowship of the Greater San Fernando Valley, a black ministers’ group, and Focus ‘90s, a black homeowners and business coalition.

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“We need to focus our attention on the healing process,” said Fred Taylor, Focus ‘90s chairman. “We need to take our destiny into our own hands.”

Taylor and others asked that a black or Latino commander be placed in charge of the Foothill Division.

“Why not just start over with a clean slate,” Taylor said, adding that he has nothing against Capt. Tim McBride, the present Foothill commander. “We have to start somewhere.”

Other residents of the largely minority community policed by the Foothill Division requested more black and Latino street officers.

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“Those officers are not a part of our community,” one young woman said of the police who patrol the area. “They don’t live here. We need to have more officers who come from our community.”

Kroeker said he would take up the community’s requests with Gates. “We’re constantly re-evaluating assignments,” he said.

He promised “firm, fair and friendly” law enforcement and said he could offer no explanation of the beating.

“I will be the first to seek strong discipline and, if necessary, the removal of those officers using excessive force,” Kroeker said as residents applauded.

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Not everyone in the audience was ready to forgive and forget, however.

“Police officers are the biggest liars God ever made,” shouted an elderly woman, who said her husband was beaten by officers who stopped him on the freeway.

But the Rev. D.D. Chatman, a Baptist minister, said the King incident may lead to better relations between police and the minority community.

“Have we ever before had a deputy chief come and talk to us?,” he asked the audience. “It’s a beginning. We have enough to worry about with the gangs without having to worry about the police.”

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Outside police headquarters at Parker Center in Los Angeles, demonstrators chanted “Gates must go.”

“Chief Gates has caused this kind of unrest by his antiquated methods of leadership,” said Jose DeSosa of Pacoima, state president of the NAACP.


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