City Council Unanimously Votes Beck as LAPD Chief
By Christina VillacorteCity News Service
Charles Beck became chief of the Los Angeles Police Department today, vowing to make the agency "the glue that holds the city together."
The City Council voted unanimously in support of Beck to replace Chief William Bratton, who stepped down Oct. 31 and returned to New York to work for a company that provides security services to post-conflict nations like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Immediately after the council's vote, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa administered Beck's oath of office, and City Council President Eric Garcetti pinned the chief's badge on Beck's uniform.
Beck's wife, Cindy--a retired sheriff's deputy--pinned four stars on her husband's collar as Beck's father, George, a retired LAPD assistant chief, looked on. Beck's mother, Alma, touched his cheek.
"I believe that the police department can not only make this city safer, can not only make this city enjoy crime reductions, but can also be the glue that holds the city together," said Beck, who said he espouses "constitutional policing" that engages the community.
"We're not only a law enforcement institution, but we are an institution that brings society together," Beck told the council. "That's the true strength of the LAPD, and that's the measure that I want you to hold me to, because I intend to continue the successes of the last seven years and bring them even deeper into the organization."
Beck, 56, said he intended to "decentralize" the LAPD and push the mindset of improving the department down to the rank-and-file, not just the command staff.
He said captains who oversee police stations across the city should be given more authority and more resources to deal with local problems.
Beck, who served as LAPD chief of detectives since 2007, also pledged to continue reducing the crime rate; follow the tenets of the consent decree; be vigilant against acts of terrorism; and further expand the force.
Asked to justify increasing the ranks of the LAPD, which already has close to 10,000 officers, Beck said, "I realize that we are the biggest piece of the city's budget and that we are an extremely expensive institution and that our constant search for growth to improve public safety causes a drain on other city departments. I understand that."
"Two things that I would ask you to consider: One is that public safety has to be the number-one priority of government, that without public safety, the other pieces can't work. The other is this: That in my view of law enforcement, we are the glue and the transition piece that helps other forms of city department to function. We are connectivity," Beck said.
He said police officers will do "whatever it takes to make the city safer," including pulling couches out of alleys, replacing busted street lights, trimming back shrubbery, even painting over graffiti.
"I think you have to look at us as a department that not only performs its essential function but also allows other departments to function and then takes up the slack when they're unable to," Beck said.
The mayor and several members of the City Council called Beck "the right man at the right time for the LAPD."
They noted his many achievements, particularly his successful rehabilitation of the Rampart Division after the corruption scandal that prompted the consent decree.
Beck--who joined the department as a reserve officer in March 1975--takes the helm of the LAPD at a time of severe financial crisis.
In recent months, officials have agreed to maintain the ranks of the LAPD at 9,963 officers, though Beck has since said that number should serve as "the floor, not the ceiling" for the size of the force.
Beck will lead officers whose union agreed to defer their salary increases and to convert overtime pay into time off, in order to avoid furloughs and layoffs.
That did not seem to faze Beck's father, George.
"I look to see him really identify with the policeman," he said. "I think people are going to be surprised how strongly that identification will be," George Beck said.
"I think that it's common and usual for the heads of organizations to deal with people at their level and their staff level and spend their time that way, but in Charlie, you'll see him go right down to the (officers in the) radio cars and he'll know them on a first name basis, a lot of them," George Beck added.
Villaraigosa chose Beck over 1st Asst. Chief Jim McDonnell and Deputy Chief Michel Moore.
McDonnell, 50, had been Bratton's chief of staff and second-in-command. Moore, 49, has overseen the San Fernando Valley for the LAPD for the past seven years.