Ed Davis, the tough-talking former Los Angeles police chief who led the department during its shootout with the Symbionese Liberation Army and the arrest of Charles Manson, died Saturday, a family spokesman said. He was 89.
Davis died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital in San Luis Obispo, family spokesman Rob Wilcox said. He had been hospitalized since April 12, and his condition worsened Friday night, Wilcox said.
Davis, who also served three terms in the state Senate, rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department from street cop to chief from 1969 to 1978.
He led the LAPD through some of the most high-profile and shocking cases of the 1960s and ’70s, announcing on Dec. 1, 1969, the arrest of Charles Manson.
In 1974, police officers engaged in a fiery, televised gun battle with members of the Symbionese Liberation Army after the group had kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst and gone on a violent rampage.
Known for his controversial statements, in 1972 Davis suggested reinstating the death penalty in California to punish airline hijackers.
“I recommend we have a portable gallows, and after we have the death penalty back in, we conduct a rapid trial for a hijacker out there and hang him with due process out there at the airport,” Davis said.
The proposal earned him the nickname “Hang ’Em High Ed.”
Still, other critics called him “Crazy Ed,” and the chief became so incensed by news coverage he considered unfair that he once publicly canceled his subscription to the Los Angeles Times.
Under Davis, crime went down
Davis was popular with many Los Angeles residents, and under his watch crime in the nation’s second-largest city decreased by 1 percent, while it rose elsewhere.
The Republican resigned in 1978 to pursue a political career, and was elected in 1980 to his first of three terms in the California Senate. He also made unsuccessful bids for governor and U.S. senator.
He retired from politics in 1992, and the same year the Rodney King riots turned him into a vocal critic of his former police department.
He called on his successor, Daryl Gates, to resign and recommended that future police chiefs be limited to two five-year terms. The recommendation was subsequently adopted.
Davis was survived by his wife, Bobbie Trueblood; his children, Michael Davis, Christine Coey and Mary Ellen Burde; and four stepchildren.