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Rodney King riots won't happen again, say police

Rodney King retrospective: Twenty years later, a look back at the Rodney King beating, the riots that followed, and how far the LAPD think they have come.

A group of police officers beating Rodney King with nightsticks and kicking him as other officers look on, March 3, 1991. Thursday marked the 20th Anniversary of the video taped beating. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck says his department has gone through sweeping reforms since the 1991 Rodney King beating, and he doesn't think his officers would engage in such a videotaped assault today.

George Holliday/Courtesy of KTLA/AP/File

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Twenty years after the videotaped Rodney King beating exposed racial wounds and ignited passions that eventually sparked a devastating riot, Police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday he's confident a similar police beating couldn't happen again.

The Los Angeles Police Department has made sweeping reforms in its use of force and handling of complaints, is under more civilian oversight, and community-based policing has eased tensions in crime-plagued communities, Beck said.

In addition, the ubiquitous cell phone means officers are aware they may be taped at any time, Beck asserted.

"Inarguably, we are a much better department," he said during a routine meeting with journalists. "I have more faith in my police officers than to believe a Rodney King incident would happen today."

King, who is black, was beaten by four white police officers following a high-speed chase into the Lakeview Terrace area on March 3, 1991. A resident, George Holliday, heard sirens and videotaped the beating from his balcony. His nine-minute footage aired on local television and eventually found its way around the world.

A year later, the four officers were acquitted in a criminal trial, triggering outrage in some black communities that erupted on April 29, 1992, into days of rioting and looting that left 55 people dead and more than $1 billion in damage.


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