Lawmakers tell how the 1992 LA riots impacted their lives

For two California lawmakers, April 29, 1992 became a day that continues to impact their legislative careers three decades later.

Assemblyman Mike Gipson was a police officer and Assemblyman Reggie-Jones Sawyer worked as an emergency preparedness coordinator.


What do you want to know

  • Assemblyman Mike Gipson was a police officer during the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1992
  • Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer worked as an emergency preparedness coordinator in the city of Los Angeles
  • The two lawmakers passed legislation to help end police brutality
  • Jones-Sawyer is chairman of the Public Safety Committee and Gipson is chairman of the Police Reform Committee

“Thirty years ago, I remember it very well. I was a police officer and was assigned to the Maywood Police Department. I was a small business owner of a mini market,” Asm said. Gipson, who represents the communities of Compton, Carson and Watts in the State Assembly.

Gipson, who was born and raised in the burning city, still remembers the pain his community felt when the verdict was read.

“It hurt the black community, it hurt South Los Angeles, it hurt Los Angeles, but as a result of that we were able to have conversations about our voices not being heard when it comes to fairness in the justice system,” Gipson added.

Gipson explains that one of the changes that stemmed from the riots and civil unrest of 1992 was that more African Americans were running for office.

“That led me to put in place bills and policies to make it uncomfortable for bad police officers to stay in uniform,” he explained.

As chairman of the Police Reform Committee, Gipson says he is committed to passing legislation to help end police brutality, a goal he has had since watching Rodney King beat up and was reinforced when George Floyd was murdered.

“That’s why you’ve seen a lot of policing reform happening in California around decertification, around chokeholds, around positional asphyxiation – you’ve seen a lot of aggressive policies that have changed the landscape of California and the states United when it comes to police reform,” Gipson said.

His colleague, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, also remembers what it was like when he walked into work after the officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted.

“I rushed to the emergency operations center where I witnessed the dysfunction of the city at the time,” Jones-Sawyer recalled. “I literally saw where Mayor Tom Bradley was in one office and Chief Daryl Gates was in another and they were sending emissaries between them to talk to each other and I looked up and the city was on fire and burning. “

He describes the days after April 29, 1992 as one of the most surreal moments of his life.

“I think for the first time the public had sympathy and empathy for African American men because the beatings were so vicious – it was really a shock to the system,” Jones said. Sawyer.

The history buff says he has made it his mission to study and learn from past events to avoid making the same mistakes again.

“The circumstances, the laws, the legislation, the policies, the training – everything that was considered good in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s no longer applies,” Jones-Sawyer added.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed one of his bills last year that requires new recruits to have a bachelor’s degree or be at least 25 before serving as a peace officer or prison guard.

“We’re going to retrain all law enforcement in California,” Jones-Sawyer explained. “Everyone is going to be trained differently than before, so they understand CRT, psychology, mental health — because it’s a different world.”

Jones-Sawyer notes that while it’s important for aspiring law enforcement officers to be trained in how to protect themselves, it’s also important that they learn the skills to be socially aware.

Gipson and Jones-Sawyer say they hope to continue to help improve their communities by using their platforms as lawmakers and policymakers.

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