Hundreds attend public visitation for ex-LAPD Chief Daryl Gates

Hundreds of people turned out Monday to pay final respects to former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, whose casket was on display in an auditorium at the department’s downtown headquarters.

The iconic, controversial chief, who led the LAPD for 14 years ending in 1992, died this month after a short battle with cancer. He was 83.

A white hearse ferrying Gates’ wooden casket arrived at the LAPD’s auditorium in the morning hours, escorted by a phalanx of motorcycle officers. When the doors to the building opened at noon, a line of a few hundred mourners snaked down to a shaded area where members of Gates’ family informally received well-wishers.

Inside, two white-gloved LAPD officers stood at attention on both sides of the casket, which was partially draped with a United States flag. On a pedestal nearby were Gates’ badge and patrol hat, along with a red rose.

For the most part people filed by somberly, pausing to gaze up at the running loop of pictures projected onto the wall depicting Gates during an LAPD career that spanned four decades. One showed a tough-looking Gates giving a news conference in front an LAPD armored vehicle. Another showed him lecturing a classroom of young students against drug use, a cause he championed. A few visitors chose to remain and took seats in the darkened auditorium. One woman cried quietly, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Mark Rodriguez, 43, an accountant, said he was attending because his father, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, was a close friend of Gates and would have wanted to pay his respects.

“He was very much like my father,” Rodriguez said. “He was a stern man, but a kind man.”

Rodriguez also recalled Gates’ sense of humor. On one of many golf outings when Rodriguez was a teenager, he drove his ball farther than Gates. “It’s a good thing I don’t have my ticket book with me,” Gates said.

Sandra Jones, a 22-year reserve officer, echoed several retired and veteran officers who spoke of Gates’ unwavering support for his officers and dedication to the job. “He supported his men and women, good or bad,” she said. “He’ll always be my chief.”

After an initial rush, the stream of mourners thinned to a trickle by early afternoon. The visitation was scheduled to continue into the night, when the flow of people was expected to pick up again.

There was little hint Monday of the turbulence and controversy that surrounded Gates’ tenure. Hailed by supporters as an innovative, hard-charging leader, he endured sharp criticism from many other corners of the city. Gates, who made several racially insensitive comments as chief, has been faulted for being out of touch with the dramatic demographic changes that occurred during his tenure and for failing to quash a harsh, intolerant attitude that many cops demonstrated toward minorities.

An elaborate procession is planned Tuesday morning to transport Gates’ body from the LAPD to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for a private memorial service.