Los Angeles Police Chief-designate Charlie Beck met the local public Tuesday evening, November 10, and it was clear to the upwards of 200 people gathered at Mar Vista Recreation Center that this is not your father’s LAPD, or your grandfather’s.
Beck, wearing a short-sleeved, open-collared police uniform with full utility belt, delivered his opening remarks in a conversational tone; he said that he will “make sure that every police officer knows that the community is our ally and not the enemy,” and he stressed such things as the need to provide options for released prisoners re-entering society so as to reduce recidivism. He then walked the rec center floor and fielded questions ranging from the challenges posed by homelessness and illegal immigration to dealing with medical marijuana outlets and the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.
The new chief’s message was as different from those of earlier generations as his appearance in a working uniform was different from the dress-uniform-behind-a-podium approach or the business-suit-just-like-the-politicians image of LAPD chiefs of years gone by. Sgt. Joe Friday was nowhere in sight. And neither was Sgt. Mark Furman.
Referring to the seven-year administration of Chief William J. Bratton who retired October 31, Beck pledged to “make sure the reforms in the LAPD continue on” and added that he will “push [the reforms] into the patrol cars.”
Deputy Chief Beck’s nomination by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was unanimously approved by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Monday, November 9. The full City Council will vote on confirmation next week, on November 17 or 18, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl told The Mirror Tuesday evening.
Rosendahl, whose L.A. City Council district surrounds Santa Monica on three sides, acted as emcee of the town hall meeting, and he introduced Mayor Villaraigosa, praising him for the “open and inclusionary” process by which he had evaluated the 24 applicants for the police chief position. Villaraigosa said he had sought the opinions of everyone from former police chief Darryl Gates to ACLU activist Ramona Ripson in making his selection, and called Beck “a man of deep character and conviction.”
Beck, who came up through the ranks in the LAPD, referred to his experience as an officer, sergeant, and lieutenant before becoming a senior lead officer, area captain, and deputy chief. He said that “right now this police department is the best it’s ever been,” and he acknowledged that he was “humbled by the response that LAPD gets from the people of the City of Los Angeles.”
Those sentiments were ratified by the supportive attitude of the large crowd that evening, which included Venice Neighborhood Council president Mike Newhouse, lawyer Noel Weiss who represents some of the Lincoln Place tenants, and Martin Rubin of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, as well as California Assemblyman Ted Lieu and L.A. Councilmember Jan Perry.
Among the many subjects on which citizens questioned him, Beck said:
• Graffiti: It is a “gateway crime” and “not just an act of vandalism, but in many cases an act of terrorism.”
• Youth: Crime prevention is less expensive and more effective than investigation and apprehension, but the police department’s “capacity is limited by its primary function” and so the City as a whole must also respond in this area.
• Re-entry: Regarding persons released from jails and prisons, “gangs have their own re-entry programs and they work very well,” and now law enforcement and government must provide constructive alternatives.
• Burglaries: “One of the most difficult crimes to address” because of the stealth involved; it is incumbent on neighborhoods to watch and report unusual behavior.
• Immigration: Beck supports “Special Order 40,” under which police “will not initiate enforcement actions based solely on immigration status” because “immigrants must feel comfortable with police or [the police] can’t enforce public safety.” But Special Order 40 only says what it says (“initiate”; “solely”).
• Homelessness in Venice: Instances of crimes committed by homeless persons are an example of the need to “grow” the LAPD (more police) so it can do more than react to emergencies; in the short run, Beck will consider getting senior leads from downtown L.A. with experience with homeless issues to come to Venice.