Retired councilman, LAPD chief Bernard Parks recalls 1992 LA riots

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Bernard Parks, who has served the city of Los Angeles for 50 years, worked his way up to LAPD police chief and then to city councilman. He's seen some difficult days, but none darker than the 1992 L.A. riots.

He said the Rodney King beating stood for so much more than one incident. So many people had waited for the day in court when the officers would be punished. But instead, they heard the words "not guilty."

"The '92 riots. You can't think about them without it relating to Rodney King. That video of that incident validated in many people's minds decades and decades of police abuse that they couldn't prove," he said. "Everybody that had a complaint in the past said, 'See. I told you this happened to me and nobody would believe me.'"

Parks was deputy chief during the riots. He was inside Parker Center while the violence erupted right outside his doors. He said he wasn't fearful during that time, but that they were limited on resources.

He said in South Central, a truck tried to get through the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. That's when rioters beat up truck driver Reginald Denny. Parks said a number of buildings were burned and attacked on Vermont Avenue.

"I don't think anyone visualized just how far spread from the furthest east and south to the west side that these things were occurring," he said.

At the intersection of Vermont and Manchester avenues, Parks showed ABC7 anchor David Ono what was once a happy place he'd take his kids.

"This used to be a place where people did their Christmas shopping and there were different stores and different levels of stores. Across the street they had a soda shop. This was a very thriving community," Parks said.

The riots wiped it out and nothing has replaced it 25 years later. The neighborhood is desperate for a grocery store with fresh food, merchants who can sell clothes and goods - but the lot has been empty for more than two decades.

A community still forgotten.

"When people say, 'Can this happen again?' Certainly it can happen again because the same set of circumstances are ever-present. It's just a matter of what will be the spark next time," Parks said.

Parks is enjoying retirement but is still deeply worried about Los Angeles' underserved communities. He believes more needs to be done.
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