A conversation with Daryl F. Gates
Last May The Times ran an extensive interview by columnist Patt Morrison with former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates. Here are additional excerpts from that interview:
You grew up and lived in L.A. Most of the officers now don’t live in the city they patrol. Has that made a difference in their attitudes toward L.A., and vice versa?
Answer: The police officers mainly moved out of the city because they couldn’t afford to live in the city. My view has always been [that] I think it’s very hard to live in the area where they work. You’re recognized as a Los Angeles police officer, your kids are recognized as the kids of a Los Angeles police officer. There’s neighbor disputes, there’s kid disputes, there’s all kinds of things, and you’re right in the middle of it. The healthiest situation is for a police officer to go into an area and then adopt that area as his area. The people there are his people. He’s there to provide the protection and support those people. That’s a healthy situation -- not living in that district.
You were opposed to integrating the department by consent decree.
[Integrating] by decree is dumb, absolutely dumb.
How has it worked in the long run?
[Former chief] Ed Davis was death against women [officers]. He fought it and fought it and fought it. When I became chief, the only thing I fought was lowering the height standard. I reduced it to 5 feet 7; I thought, that’s far enough. And I resented the quota.
A recent example is SWAT. [Past chief Bill] Bratton saying, “I want a woman in SWAT, I want a woman in every part of this Police Department.” I met that one woman in SWAT now -- she’s awesome, she really is, and she’s accepted. She would have been accepted regardless.
That’s my opposition. I don’t care whether [officers] are gay or not. If they’re of good character, honest, and can handle the job mentally, physically, I don’t care. What I didn’t want, what I did not believe was appropriate, was for us to go out and recruit individuals on the basis of their sexual proclivities. We don’t go out and say, “Are you a heterosexual or a homosexual?” I just think it’s horrible to do that.
You spoke to a Times reporter years ago about your concern about whether straight officers would be uneasy with gay officers.
Ed Davis said that; I never said that.
If an officer knew another officer was gay, there was going to be some uneasiness, that’s just the way it is. My point was that we shouldn’t be identifying people who come on the department by their sexual interest. We aren’t recruiting Catholics, we don’t recruit Protestants, we don’t recruit an individual on the basis of his sexual proclivities. [Then-councilman] Joel Wachs [who is gay], one of my biggest supporters and a great friend, just a super guy, he used to say, “Chief, we agree on just about everything, but can’t you go out and recruit gays?” I said, “Would you use the fact that you’re gay in your political campaigning?” “Well, no, but people know it.” I said, “That’s different. You don’t go out and use it. You don’t set yourself up as gay to get elected. And I don’t want people setting themselves up as gay to get on the Police Department. I don’t want that.”
Read more of Patt Morrison’s interview with Gates here: