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Scope and Content
Language of Material:
USC Libraries Special Collections
Title: Los Angeles Webster Commission records
Los Angeles (Calif.). Police Commission
Identifier/Call Number: 0244
50 Linear Feet
Date (inclusive): 1931-1992
Date (bulk): bulk
Abstract: On April 29, 1992, the city of Los Angeles erupted into riots after four LAPD officers accused of beating motorist Rodney
King were acquitted of all criminal charges. The effects were catastrophic; in total, the chaos persisted for six days and
resulted in 58 deaths, 2,383 injuries, and nearly a billion dollars in property damage. The extent of the human and material
losses incurred from the riots, coupled with intense public scrutiny of the LAPD, led the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners
to establish the Webster Commission to assess law enforcement's performance in connection with the riots. Included in this
collection are interviews, article clippings, broadcasts, reports, emergency operations plans, and internal LAPD documents
that were collected and analyzed by the Commission over the course of its study.
On April 29, 1992, riots erupted in Los Angeles just minutes after four LAPD officers were acquitted by a California jury
in the controversial and highly publicized Rodney King trial. The officers, who were Caucasian and Latino, had been charged
with using excessive force in the apprehension of King, who was African American, after a high-speed automobile chase that
was caught on tape. The riots lasted for six days and resulted in widespread looting, assault, arson, and murder throughout
much of Los Angeles and its suburbs. All-in-all, 58 people died, 2,383 were injured, and close to a billion dollars in property
damage was sustained.
Once the violence had subsided, the LAPD and the Chief of Police, Daryl Gates, came under intense scrutiny for using excessive
force in the King incident, for failing to prepare for civil unrest prior to the acquittals, and for not reacting swiftly
and sufficiently to end the violence. Private citizens, community activists, politicians, the media, and many law enforcement
officials cast their doubts as to whether the LAPD was capable of adequately serving and protecting the citizens of Los Angeles.
By a motion adopted on May 11, 1992, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners spearheaded an investigation aimed at examining
law enforcement's performance in connection with the riots. Former federal judge and director of the FBI and CIA, William
H. Webster, was selected by the Board to preside over the investigation. Hubert Williams, head of a respected law enforcement
think tank and the former Police Director of Newark, New Jersey, was named second-in-command. Webster and Williams were assisted
by more than 100 attorneys and a small staff on loan from other cities' police departments to conduct the study.
Five months later, the Webster Commission concluded its study and synthesized its findings in a report entitled The City in
Crisis that was presented to the Board of Police Commissioners on October 21, 1992. The report concluded that no one entity
was entirely to blame for the events following the Rodney King acquittals; rather, rioting became rampant due to a general
lack of emergency preparedness and poor coordination between the LAPD and city leaders. The report concluded with three recommendations
aimed at preventing similar occurrences in the future:
(1) The LAPD should place a greater emphasis on basic patrol duties by re-allocating police officers away from special units
and toward patrol assignments.
(2) Both the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles should devote more resources to emergency response planning and training.
(3) The city should overhaul its emergency operations center and emergency communications system to better coordinate emergency
In its investigation, the Webster Commission took into account information attained from a wide variety of sources, including
LAPD officers, other law enforcement personnel, politicians, the media, and community leaders.
Conditions Governing Use
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian.
Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Conditions Governing Access
COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.
[Box/folder# or item name], Los Angeles Webster Commission records, Collection no. 0244, Regional History Collections, Special
Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California
The collection was given to the University of Southern California on October 30, 1992 by the Special Advisor to the Board
of Police Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles.
For the most part, the collection's contents have been kept within their original groupings. Original folder titles and series
titles were used to describe the materials when the titles could be deciphered. Otherwise, folder and series titles were assigned
based on the contents.
Scope and Content
Chaired by former federal judge and FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster, the Los Angeles Webster Commission assessed law
enforcement's performance in connection with the April, 1992 Los Angeles riots. The collection consists of materials collected
and studied by the Commission over the course of its investigation. Materials pertain to both the Los Angeles incident specifically,
and civil disturbance, riot control, and policing tactics in general.
Included in the collection are the following: interviews with LAPD officers, law enforcement personnel, government officials,
community leaders, and activists; articles, broadcasts, and press releases covering the riots; various tactical and contingency
plans created for disasters and emergencies; reports, studies, and manuals about riot control and prevention; literature about
community-based policing strategies; emergency plans and procedures developed by other cities; and after-action reports issued
once the riots had subsided. Also featured are items related to the internal operations of the LAPD both before and during
the riots, including activity reports, meeting agendas and minutes, arrest data, annual reports, curricula and educational
materials, and personnel rosters.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Watts (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Race relations -- Archival resources
Criminal investigation -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
Criminal investigation -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
Emergency management -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
Emergency management -- California -- Planning -- Archival resources
Interviews -- United States -- 20th century -- Archival resources
Mass media and race relations -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
Police -- Complaints against -- California -- Los Angeles -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
Police-community relations -- California -- Los Angeles -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
Police misconduct -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
Police -- California -- Los Angeles -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
Police brutality -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
Police corruption -- California -- Los Angeles -- History -- Archival resources
Riots -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
Riot control -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
Trials (Police misconduct) -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
Los Angeles (Calif.) -- History -- Archival resources
Los Angeles (Calif.). Police Commission -- Archives
Webster, William H. -- Archives
Williams, Hubert -- Archives
King, Rodney -- Archives
Gates, Daryl F. -- Archives
Los Angeles (Calif.). Police Department -- Archives
Koon, Stacey C. -- Archives
Powell, Laurence -- Archives
Briseno, Theodore J. -- Archives
Wind, Timothy E. -- Archives