Former Los Angeles police Chief Daryl Gates, a controversial figure who once said drug users should be shot and whose career ended after the Rodney King beating, is hospitalized and seriously ill, current police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday.

Beck told the city Police Commission that Gates, 83, has a "very serious malady."

"I ask everyone to keep him in their prayers," said Beck, who visited the former chief in the hospital over the weekend.

The Police Department would not specify Gates' ailment, However, a blog posting attributed to his brother Steve Gates said the former chief had been hospitalized for three weeks with bladder cancer that had spread to a bone near his hip and he was receiving radiation treatments.

The blog, called "The Rotator," is not made available to the general public and is available only to current and retired officers who provide badge information. Efforts by The Associated Press to reach Steve Gates were unsuccessful.

Beck declined to confirm or deny the report, but said Daryl Gates was responding well to treatments after being hospitalized a couple weeks ago.

"He's looking forward to going home," Beck said. "He seemed in good spirits when I saw him. He said he was feeling much better. He's very optimistic."

Police Department spokeswoman Rosario Herrera had no further details.

Gates headed the Los Angeles Police Department from 1978 to 1992 during some of its most tumultuous years. Well-liked by the rank-and-file, he was credited with cracking down on corruption and modernizing methods.

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.

Gates is perhaps better known for his abrasive style at a time when the LAPD was viewed with suspicion by blacks, Hispanics and civil rights activists.

He 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.