More than 3,500 police chiefs and beat cops, politicians and judges paid their last respects Tuesday to former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, during a downtown funeral procession and memorial service. Gates died April 16 of cancer. Friends and colleagues heaped praise on a man once called “America’s Police Chief” but who also polarized the city he protected.
The L.A.P.D. entire command staff followed the hearse that took Gates’ flag-draped coffin from police headquarters to the downtown cathedral. Hundreds of officers saluted as it passed.
The morning was full of honors for the chief, including a 21-gun salute.
Inside Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, former Deputy Chief Mike Hillman recalled a tribute during the final weeks of his life when an L.A.P.D. helicopter hovered outside Gates’ hospital window.
“Though weakened by cancer and the treatments that he was receiving, he rose from his bed, put on his SWAT hat, made his way to the window and stood at attention," Hillman said.
"There were tears streaming down his cheeks.”
Gates served as chief of L.A.P.D. from 1978 until 1992.
His close friend and personal attorney Jay Grodin described him as a deep thinker, a loyal friend and a man of great morale courage who stood his ground even under immense pressure.
Grodin cited Gates reaction to the Rodney King beating in 1991 — the event that would lead to his ouster.
“At the time, he indicated to me that he was told by certain powers within the city that if he came out and forcefully condemned the involved officers, he could expect to see the pressure subside," Grodin said.
"The chief told me that he responded in typical fashion by telling them to 'pound sound' as they say.”
Civil libertarians and many in L.A.’s minority communities sharply criticize Gates as a chief who failed to curtail the excessive use of force by some officers.
L.A.P.D. Chief Charlie Beck noted that Gates led a department that was a third smaller than today’s, with three times the crime.
“It was the most difficult period in policing," Beck said. "It was a time when we policed by the thin blue line. And Daryl perfected thin blue line policing.”
L.A.P.D. Detective Sergeant Ruben Holguin was a friend of Gates.
“Like all of us here, Chief Gates committed several wrongs in his life, but he always walked with integrity in his heart," Holguin said.
He offered himself as an example, recalling how Gates took him under his wing as a young cop.
“He saw potential in a kid who grew up in the barrios of East Los Angeles and mentored me," Holguin recalled as his voice cracked. "He not only taught me how to be a great cop, but taught me how to be a better man.”
In a sign of Gates’ influence in law enforcement, police chiefs from throughout California showed up to pay tribute to the man who developed the first SWAT unit and the DARE anti-drug program.
Los Angeles police officers lined the streets as a funeral procession for former Chief Daryl Gates passes by.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Mayor Jim Hahn, former California Governor Pete Wilson and several superior court judges also showed up.
But no one felt the loss more than L.A.P.D. cops, especially those who knew Daryl Gates. That included Chief Beck, who called Gates a mentor.
“So I’ll end with this: the chief is dead, long live the Los Angeles Police Department.”
Shortly thereafter, police radios across the city crackled with what's known as an 'end of watch' broadcast. It marks the retirement or death of a respected member of the department.
“In honor of his stellar career with L.A.P.D., we now designate Chief Daryl F. Gates end of watch. May God bless him and the entire Gates family."
It was the traditional end for a man some see as representing the L.A.P.D.'s brutal past, and others revere as the pillar of law enforcement professionalism and integrity.