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Controversy Over LAPD's Homicide Exhibit Continues

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LAPD Kennedy Apology_chun.jpg
This June 5, 1968 file photo shows Sen. Robert F. Kennedy speaking at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, following his victory in the previous day's California primary election. A moment later he turned into a hotel kitchen corridor and was critically wounded.


This June 5, 1968 file photo shows Sen. Robert F. Kennedy speaking at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, following his victory in the previous day's California primary election. A moment later he turned into a hotel kitchen corridor and was critically wounded.
This week is the California Homicide Investigators Association (CHIA) conference in Las Vegas, an event and organization created in 1968 when homicide detectives from Los Angeles and San Francisco met over dinner to discuss the Zodiac Killer investigation. Today, it's the largest organization of homicide and death investigation professionals in the country.

Each year, a different law enforcement agency hosts the event and it was LAPD's turn this year. While maybe we should be questioning why the LAPD decided to spend money in Vegas rather than bringing tourism dollars to their namesake city, another controversy continues to brew.

As part of the conference, the LAPD created a multimedia exhibit for investigators and the public called “Behind the Scenes: The LAPD Homicide Experience." It displays evidence from well-known murders to better educate the public on the difficulties of solving complicated cases. Included in the exhibit was the tie, white shirt and black jacket Robert F. Kennedy was wearing when he was assassinated in 1968 in Los Angeles.

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Kennedy family members immediately complained and before the exhibit opened to the general public, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck took the RFK evidence out of the display and apologized on Tuesday. However, on Wednesday, Maxwell Taylor Kennedy slammed the LAPD for the incident. "Putting the blood-soaked clothing of my father, Robert F. Kennedy, on display was a macabre publicity stunt," he wrote in an LA Times opinion piece. Now, Beck is apologizing again, this time with L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley in an open letter:

This week, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) participated in the California Homicide Investigators Association (CHIA) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. CHIA was formed in 1968 when homicide detectives from Los Angeles and San Francisco met over dinner to discuss the Zodiac Killer investigation. Today, CHIA is the largest organization of homicide and death investigation professionals in the United States with over 1,400 members that include law enforcement representatives from all over the United States and Canada.

Each year different law enforcement organizations take turns hosting the conference. At this year’s CHIA conference, hosted by the LAPD, a multimedia exhibit called, “Behind the Scenes: The LAPD Homicide Experience,” was created and features homicide evidence from crimes and deaths that have captured the public's attention. The teaching exhibit was opened on Wednesday to the public and thousands of guests have stood in lines for up to two hours to glimpse Los Angeles's history.

A number of the exhibits show evidence that was collected during various well-known incidents and they were carefully designed so visitors would gain a better appreciation for the tragedy of murder and the difficult jobs law enforcement detectives have in solving often very complicated cases. Murder is the absolute worst thing one human being can do to another and the displays were designed to provide a unique insight into the sacrifice of victims and their families as well as the emotional toll murder takes on homicide detectives and the District Attorneys who prosecute the cases. Homicide is by nature horrific, but the entertainment media often portrays it as sterile and benign. When people see the reality of murder, it becomes an unthinkable act.

Based on the feedback we have received, it is now clear that a few of the items on display have offended some crime victims’ families. We have both been to hundreds of murder scenes in our law enforcement career and we have consoled many family members. It was never our intent to cause grief to victims of crime or their families. The CHIA exhibit was designed to be educational and to show the public how murder cases are very carefully investigated. We never intended to compound the grief of murder victim’s families, but unfortunately, a few items on display have been interpreted by some people as such, and that was never our intention. Our organizations strive to bring justice to homicide victims not to cause sorrow to their families.

Steve Cooley Charlie Beck

District Attorney Chief of Police