Computer messages give L.A. police beating case a racial cast Messages recorded between officers' patrol cars reveal racial slurs about blacks.

March 19, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles police officers accused in the beating of Rodney G. King, a black motorist stopped for speeding after a freeway pursuit, had made racial slurs about blacks involved in a previous incident and referred to the King arrest as "a big time use of force," according to transcripts of patrol car computer messages made public yesterday.

"I haven't beaten anyone this bad in a long time," read a computer message sent from the squad car assigned to officers Laurence M. Powell and Timothy Wind, both of whom were indicted last week in the videotaped assault.

It was not known which officer was operating the squad car computer, which Police Department personnel use to communicate with one another in the field.

Another message, sent from Powell's and Wind's car just before the King incident, described a domestic dispute involving blacks that the officers had handled as being "right out of 'Gorillas in the Mist.' " The squad car that received the message responded: "Ha ha ha ha. Let me guess who be the parties."

A Los Angeles police official investigating the King affair said the reference to "Gorillas in the Mist," the title of a movie about ape research in Africa, and the usage of black dialect by white officers apparently had racial connotations. "Without drawing assumptions," said Cmdr. Rick Dinse, "I am led to believe that is a racial comment."

Release of the four pages of starkly worded police communiques, frequently punctuated by "ha ha ha," immediately brought intensified complaints from Mayor Tom Bradley.

In a strongly worded statement issued by his staff late last night, Bradley -- who had just arrived in Hawaii to press a Super Bowl bid for the city -- decried what he called the "bigoted remarks" of the officers. The mayor said the comments "raise questions that are just as serious and disturbing" as the actual beating, which Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has repeatedly called "an aberration."

Said Bradley: "It is no longer possible for any objective person to regard the King beating as an aberration. We must face the fact that there appears to be a dangerous trend of racially motivated incidents running through at least some segments of our police department."

The police log shows a series of 19 messages sent during the 48 minutes surrounding the videotaped beating of King, 25, an unemployed construction worker on parole after a robbery conviction. The transmissions include those sent by Powell and Wind to a car that was not at the March 3 beating scene, as well as messages sent by Sgt. Stacy C. Koon -- who was also indicted last week -- to his watch commander's desk.

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