One of the problems with judging the infamous Rodney King video by the edited clip we always see is that we never see what led up to the incident. We know there was a high-speed pursuit, but we don't see the part where King fought the officers before they swarmed him.
The full video shows that King, a convicted robber, wasn't the innocent bystander the media portrayed him as. Here's a description of some of the events that you don't see on the news (from a Wikipedia entry):
Koon then ordered the four other LAPD officers at the scene -- Briseno, Powell, Solano, and Wind -- to subdue and handcuff King in a manner called a "swarm", a technique that involves multiple officers grabbing a suspect with empty hands. As the officers attempted to do so, King physically resisted. King rose up, tossing Officers Powell and Briseno off his back. King then struck Officer Briseno in the chest. Seeing this, Koon ordered all of the officers to fall back. The officers later testified that they believed King was under the influence of the dissociative drug phencyclidine (PCP).
Tellingly, the Wikipedia entry mentions what happens to King's two passengers--that's right, there were three people in the car.
Officer Tim Singer ordered King and his two passengers to exit the vehicle and lie face down on the ground. The two passengers complied and were taken into custody without incident.
If the cops were racist and just wanted to beat on black people, why was there no incident with the ones that didn't attack the officers? King, on the other hand, was a physical threat to them:
King initially remained in the car. When he finally did emerge, he acted bizarrely: giggling; patting the ground; and waving to the police helicopter overhead. King then grabbed his buttocks. Officer Melanie Singer momentarily thought he was reaching for a gun