Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Rodney King should be treated as any accused drunk driver would

July 13, 2011 |  3:29 pm

Rodney King

Rodney King’s in trouble again. This time he was arrested in Moreno Valley on suspicion of driving under the influence and freed on bail Wednesday morning. As his extensive rap sheet -- not to mention his gig on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab” -- proves, King struggles with substance abuse.

While I don’t personally believe punitive measures, such as the tactics used in Glynn County, Ga., are the best way to guide a troubled person back to health, I also don’t think people who break the law should be in a position to call the shots. Some would argue that King -- who received $3.8 million in a civil suit and became a household name after LAPD officers savagely beat him -- has had that advantage since 1991. Others argue it’s the other way around.

Columnist Patt Morrison navigated this issue in "The undying echo of fate."

Some people believe unswervingly that the 1991 videotaped beating hung a flashing, beeping, glittering neon "Kick Me" sign on Rodney King's back for the rest of his life.

And there are others who are certain that it handed Rodney King a get-out-of-jail-free card with no expiration date.

Those of the first school will point to a pile of small-potato encounters with the law since 1991 -- illegally tinted windows, picking up a transvestite hooker and aiming his car at vice cops, domestic abuse, seat belt violation, drunk driving charges here and there.

Police harassment, they will say. He put it to the cops, and now the cops are out to put it to him. And after what he's been put through, who wouldn't be completely freaked at the sight of a cop?

Those of the second school will answer, Yeah, but:

How many guys get a deputy chief called to the scene of an ordinary domestic abuse complaint ... just because it's Rodney King? How many drivers with an expired car registration and no license on him would get to drive away without even a ticket? How many times did Daryl Gates get awakened at 3 a.m. on a "red-1" alert for a man caught with a transvestite hooker? How many guys would get released without being booked, and never thereafter charged, after allegedly trying to run down the undercover vice cop who caught him?

And how many traffic stops can rattle a designated CHP spokeswoman into staying mum about a plain speeding ticket until the agency's public information officer shows up the next day to do the talking, as happened Sunday in San Diego County?

That’s from a July 1996 column. It’s now July 2011, and the same issue remains. The LAPD has learned from its horrible and racist offenses, as Jim Newton wrote in his January Op-Ed column, “Not your 1992 LAPD.” Now it’s time for King to learn from his mistakes and commit to his own rehabilitation, for his sake and for the sake of the many innocent people he endangers every time he gets behind the wheel drunk.

And if King can’t do that, as is often the case with people who suffer from addiction, law enforcement shouldn’t treat him differently from any other accused drunk driver. Revoke his license, take away his car, but don’t walk around on eggshells.


'Whites-only' isn't diversity

Newton: Mean streets — for police

To resist temptation, forget guilt or shame and think positive

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Rodney King entered “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew” to battle his alcoholism. He said he took his first drink at age 8. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Comments ()