Note that this time around, the chief is a man brought in to help federal monitors reform the department. Keep in mind that after one inspector general was fired for trying to do her job and another resigned in frustration after locking horns with the chief and the Police Commission, policies changed, and the new I.G. — who, by the way, gets along famously with the chief and the Police Commission — is accorded access and courtesy denied to his predecessors. Recall that as bad as our problems may seem now, they are nowhere near as hopeless as they seemed in 1992.
Still — when the tape first came out of the Rodney King beating, Police Chief Daryl Gates said it looked pretty bad. There was no way of knowing, then, that a year later the city would erupt in flame. It may have been obvious that the LAPD culture was seriously in need of reform, but there was no way of knowing our procedures were so hopelessly inept, and there was no way of knowing the right things to say to the right people at the right time to bring about a more constructive fix.
There’s no way of knowing those things now, either, so everybody follows the ceremony as best they can, knowing all the while that our ritual can at any moment turn into a mad tea party.