Outgoing Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck was honored by the City Council Wednesday one week before he is set to step down, and was praised as a leader who helped soften the department’s image in minority communities while making key reductions in homicides.
Beck announced in January that he will retire June 27. Mayor Eric Garcetti has picked LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore to be his successor, although Moore still needs to be approved by the City Council.
“This is not that old LAPD. This is a new, professional, thoughtful, considerate, your friend to protect and to serve you,” Councilman Gil Cedillo said. “It’s amazing to see these changes and you have provided that leadership.”
Beck has been chief of the LAPD since November 2009. His latest five-year appointment was set to expire in 2019. He joined the department as a reserve officer in March 1975 and became a full-time officer in March 1977. He was promoted to sergeant in 1984, to lieutenant in 1993, to captain in 1999 and commander in 2005. He became a deputy chief in 2006, achieving the same rank his father attained at the agency.
As a deputy chief he oversaw the department’s South Bureau, and later became the chief of detectives.
Beck has been under fire in recent years, with activist groups such as Black Lives Matter calling for his ouster in response to what they call a rise in police shootings of black suspects. A recent report found that officer-involved shootings went up last year by 10 percent while other large departments such as New York, Chicago and Houston saw decreases.
But many City Council members said Beck has improved the department’s reputation in black and Latino communities that once feared officers during the reign of former Chief Daryl Gates — seen by many as a time when the LAPD was known for brutality and corruption. Beck was also praised for publicly stating on numerous occasions that the LAPD would not be used to enforce federal immigration laws after President Donald Trump took office with promises to increase deportations and apply pressure to local agencies to aid in the effort.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who represents Northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods, said Beck had helped turn around the reputation of the Rampart Division, which was rocked with a scandal in the late 1990s when numerous officers were accused of corruption and criminal activity. Beck was named captain of the Rampart Division in 2003 and is credited by some observers with helping improve the division’s reputation in the community.
“You were able to steer the Rampart Division away from that so beautifully, and you did that I think by exhibiting the power of your character, and your leadership,” O’Farrell said.
Councilman Paul Krekorian praised Beck for meeting with members of the LGBT community.
“The outreach that you have done for example in the LGBT community, for you to go personally to interact with our transgender community — not too many years ago, I don’t think any police officer would do that, let alone the chief of police, it would have been unimaginable. But you set that standard right from the top,” Krekorian said.
Beck leaves with uneven results on crime. Violent crime rose for the fourth straight year in 2017, following 12 years of declines. But the homicide rate improved to 282 in 2017 from 294 in 2016, and down from 293 in 2010, Beck’s first full year as chief. The previous three years all saw rises in homicides, going from 251 in 2013 to 260 in 2014 and 283 in 2015. Homicides peaked during his tenure in 2012 with 299.
Although there have been fluctuations, homicides have drastically fallen overall since the city’s all-time high in 1992 of 1,092, and are down from 647 in 2002.
Beck noted that 2017 was the eighth year in a row the city experienced less than 300 homicides, a streak that had not been matched since the 1960s when the city had about 1 million fewer residents. He also predicted the streak would continue this year and credited his staff and officers on the force for the improvements his department has seen.
“All of us want this to be a better city, but there’s only a few of us who will show up at your house at 2 in the morning and make sure that is a reality. And those are the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department. And they deserve the accolades. Whatever accolades you give me, would be merely as my representation of them,” Beck said.
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