The nine minutes of grainy video footage George Holliday captured of Los Angeles police beating Rodney King 20 years ago helped to spur dramatic reforms in a department that many felt operated with impunity. (George Holliday)

Twenty years ago yesterday, Rodney King got the living shit kicked out of him in Los Angeles.

Amazing as it may seem, those 9 minutes of grainy footage, shot by George Holliday on his clunky Sony Handycam, may never have existed.

At the time, Holliday obviously didn’t know the significance of what he was filming, nor that it would change the consciousness of Black America, the trajectory of the Los Angeles Police Department and race relations in the City of Angels.

This, from the Los Angeles Times:

The simple existence of the video was something unusual in itself. Relatively few people then had video cameras, Holliday did — and had the wherewithal to turn it on.

“It was just coincidence,” Holliday reflected in an interview a decade ago. “Or luck.”

Today, things are far different and the tape that so tainted the LAPD has a clear legacy in how officers think about their jobs. Police now work in a YouTube world in which cellphones double as cameras, news helicopters transmit close-up footage of unfolding police pursuits, and surveillance cameras capture arrests or shootings. Police officials are increasingly recording their officers.

Advertisements