The 1992 riots after the verdict in the Rodney King beating were a turning point for new Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck, solidifying his feeling that his department’s harsh policing methods were not only failing to make streets safer, but also helping set the stage for the eruption, the Los Angeles Times reports. “I started trying to look at the job differently” Beck said “I figured there had to be a way to be an effective police officer without alienating the people you were policing.”
It would be a decade before Beck was in a position to try out some of his ideas. MacArthur Park, an open-air bazaar of drug dealing, prostitution, and violence, symbolized the police department’s inability to maintain order. Beck reached out to local business owners and leaned on city agencies to return the park’s lighting, sports facilities, and landscaping to working order. Crime suppression units that had been aimlessly making hundreds of arrests each month were ordered to stand down. Beck’s officers pursued federal grants and partnered with business owners to install surveillance cameras. The cops reintroduced order to the park, making arrests and issuing citations for small infractions that had gone ignored.