Former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates was hospitalized with a "very serious malady," according to current Chief Charlie Beck.
Beck made the announcement Tuesday at a Police Commission meeting. He said he visited Gates, 83, in the hospital over the weekend.
"I ask everyone to keep him in their prayers," Beck said, according to the LA Times.
Gates resigned in the wake of the 1992 LA riots after 14 years as department chief. The riots began after the Rodney King trial.
He became chief in 1978. He was well-liked by the rank-and-file but had a sharp tongue and was criticized by civil rights groups who claimed he allowed racism to flourish in the department.
Gates once told a congressional committee that drug users should be shot. In 1982, when several suspects died after being put in police chokeholds, Gates was quoted as saying some blacks might be more at risk from the tactic because their arteries did not open as quickly as those of "normal people." He later apologized for causing offense.
There were repeated accusations in the 1970s and 1980s that the LAPD was a department that targeted minority communities, profiled suspects by race and was lenient on abusive cops.
In 1983, Gates shut down a police intelligence unit after it was learned that officers were spying on the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
Gates came under pressure in 1991 after the videotaped beating of Rodney King by officers.
In April 1992, four officers were acquitted of criminal charges in the King beating, sparking a riot that killed more than 50 people and caused some $1 billion in damage.
Gates was criticized by the mayor and others who said officers were slow to respond to the violence. He retired a few months later.
As a member of the LAPD command staff before becoming chief, Gates approved what became the first police SWAT team — heavily armed specialists to handle civil unrest, hostage situations and other crises.
Gates also helped start the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or DARE, a now widely used program that teaches schoolchildren about the dangers of drug use.
Correction: An image associated with an earlier version of this article was that of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.