According to reports, Gates died at his home in Dana Point. He was 83.
During his tenure, Gates was credited with helping to modernize the LAPD. The Los Angeles Times reports that "[Gates] instituted military-style SWAT teams to handle crises and the gentler DARE classroom program to prevent drug abuse. These initiatives, emulated by police departments across the United States, and other advances, such as a communications system that reduced police response times, bolstered his reputation as an exemplar of modern law enforcement. President George H.W. Bush called him an "all-American hero."
He was later cast as a polarizing figure and was forced out after the Los Angeles riots.
Though popular among officers, his brash style often rankled city leaders, and the rioting that erupted in 1992 when white police officers were acquitted of charges related to the beating of Rodney King, Gates became cast as out-of-touch with the realities of the cities urban core.
Gates joined the LAPD in 1949 and advanced steadily in rank over his career. In 1965, at the time of the Watts riots, he was an inspector, in charge of the investigation of the Manson Family murders and the Hillside Strangler. In March of 1978 Gates became the 49th Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Gates retired under pressure in late 1992.