1992 April 29

LAPD Officers Acquitted in Rodney King Beating: Los Angeles Erupts in Riots


Los Angeles erupted in six days of riots following the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers charged with beating Rodney King on March 3, 1991. The riots left 54 people dead, over two thousand injured, and $1 billion in property damaged or destroyed. The four officers were later charged with federal civil rights criminal violations; two were found guilty and two were acquitted in April 1993.

King was an African-American, and the beating was captured on a home video by George Holiday, who lived across the street. The beating sparked national and international outrage, and increased the drive for greater police accountability.

One direct result of the King beating was enactment of Section 14141 of the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, which gave the justice department authority to investigate local police departments for a “pattern or practice” of violating peoples’ rights. The first investigation and consent decree mandating reforms to curb police abuse involved the Pittsburgh police department on April 16, 1997. One of the most famous cases involved a federal consent decree over the Ferguson, Missouri, police department following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the protests and violence that followed.

Read about King, the LAPD and the riots: Lou Cannon, Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD (1997)

Learn about the two trials: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/lapd/lapd.html

See the 1992 Los Angeles riots: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gCHS7CsjsE

Learn more about police misconduct: Samuel Walker and Carol Archbold, The New World of Police Accountability, 2nd ed. (2014)

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