One-on-One with LAPD Chief-Designate Charlie Beck
Chief - Designate Charlie Beck Already confirmed by the City Council's Public Safety Committee, LAPD Chief-Designate Charlie Beck is expected to be confirmed by the City Council next week
Special to the Sentinel by Jasmyne A. Cannick
The LAPD Chief-Designate, Charlie Beck, discussed Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD), the LAPDâ€™s intervention and prevention programs, police misconduct and what residents can expect from their new Police Chief on these issues.
Beck, 56, is credited with turning around the LAPDâ€™s scandal-ridden Rampart Division. He then later headed up the departmentâ€™s South L.A. bureau increasing the departmentâ€™s effectiveness and relationship with the community.Â Born in Long Beach, California, Beck attended California State University at Long Beach. His father, also a LAPD officer retired in 1980 at the rank of Deputy Chief. His son will graduate from the LAPD police Academy on Dec. 4.
Â Known for being tough on crime, when asked what the number one, two, and three crimes were right now in L. A., Beck answered, â€œGang crime, gang crime, and gang crime because thatâ€™s what drives crime in L. A.Â Over 50% of our homicides are gang related.Â Homicides are traditionally a crime of passion.Â These are not crimes of passion; they are crimes of deliberate intent based on affiliation of a rival.Â Through intelligent policing, we can affect gang crime.â€
Â â€œI am tough on crime.Â I am very tough on crime.Â But I am also somebody that understands that arrests and hardcore policing are not the only way to solve problems.Â I think that if you ask anybody in South L. A. about how theyâ€™ve seen policing change over the last several years â€“ especially when I was there â€“ it is the involvement of intervention. The involvement of groups of people can affect the outcomes of crime in different ways.Â And I am all for that.â€Â
Â â€œIâ€™ve worked with the Mayorâ€™s office to get the GRYD office off the groundâ€”to fund intervention groups.Â I see them as a big part of itâ€”on a couple of different levels. I like solutions that work in a multiplicity of ways.Â And intervention works for me on a number of things.Â First, it reduces gang violence, obviously.Â For the creation of peace between rival gangs are their bread and butter.Â But it also builds trust, because when people see me working with gang intervention folks, when people see me working with civil rights advocates, they go â€¦ well look, they have a working relationship.Â Now we donâ€™t do the same thing.Â They donâ€™t work for me.Â Theyâ€™re not my informants.Â Nothing like that.Â But they see that we have a mutual respect and that allows people to bridge the respect over to the LAPD.â€
Â â€œThis is not about Charlie Beck.Â Charlie Beck is a figurehead for the LAPD.Â And thatâ€™s the important thingâ€”not about how people feel about Charlie Beck, but how they feel about the LAPD.Â I want them to feel ownership of this organization.Â I want when a black-and-white drives down the street that people say go there goes our police department.Â Now weâ€™re not going to always do what people think is the right thing.Â And when we donâ€™t, then Iâ€™ll deal with that.Â But I want people to feel like thereâ€™s people that care about the community.Â There are people who are dedicated to doing the right thing.Â Now, do things always come out right?Â No, they just donâ€™t.Â Itâ€™s a tough business with lot variables and bad things happen.Â But itâ€™s how you deal with them and what things you do to make sure that a minimum number of them occur.Â The way I work is that I always put money in the bank.Â And that means that I build trust.Â Because I know that I am going to have to take money out of the bank once in a while, but I always want to have more in than I took out.â€
Â â€œI think that weâ€™re on the right road with intervention and the LAPDâ€™s prevention programs are good. Weâ€™re a law enforcement organization so we canâ€™t build prevention programs that address all of the needs.Â We just canâ€™t.Â Weâ€™re physically not capable of doing that; weâ€™re just not big enough to do our law enforcement tasks and then run youth programs for every child that needs it in the whole city.Â That has to be other peopleâ€™s responsibility and we have to help them with it.Â You know it has to be the responsibility of the schools.Â It has to be the responsibility of the community.Â It has to be the responsibility of the agencies whose sole purpose is to work with youth.Â We have to help them. Sometimes we have to accept our role, so that we donâ€™t spread ourselves so thin that we canâ€™t do what weâ€™re really supposed to be doing.Â And nobody should take that to mean that weâ€™re going to reduce what weâ€™re already doing with youth but we canâ€™t wrap our arms around every young person in Los Angeles.Â Thatâ€™s not our job.Â They have parents.Â There are organizations that are specifically tasked and funded to do this.â€
Â Beck continues by explaining that the current LAPD model of intervention is working. We have a good model.Â We need to keep pushing that model.Â We need to finish the Intervention academy.Â We need to get the city to put some more money into it.Â We need to have certification programs within the city that professionalize the vocation.Â What I think we need to do a better job on is re-entry.Â Re-entry is huge, especially facing the Stateâ€™s budget crisis and the pending release of thousands of inmates.Â They have to have a place to go.Â We canâ€™t just pull our heads under the cover and say, â€œwell I guess weâ€™ll just have to re-arrest themâ€.Â Thatâ€™s not what we have to do.Â Thatâ€™s just a revolving door.Â Thatâ€™s not what Iâ€™m interested in.Â We have to create re-entry strategies that will work.Â Now again, there are agencies that tasked with that as their primary dutyâ€”probation, parole, and youth campsâ€”we have to work with them.Â I see the police department as the glue that holds everything together because weâ€™re so invested in the outcomes.Â There are good intervention programs, but theyâ€™re not run by the city, theyâ€™re not run by the State, theyâ€™re run by the 400 gangs that terrorize Los Angeles. When a young man or woman comes out of prison, there is somebody thatâ€™s waiting for them and itâ€™s their old street gang.Â And they come back out with increased status, with a ready support system, and theyâ€™ll take them right back in and we have to be there instead.Â When I say we, I donâ€™t mean the L.A.P.D per se, I mean the community at large.â€
Â â€œThere are some good things going on in South Bureau they need to bigger, we need to be more vigorous.Â We need to work with people like the Urban League to help us with job creation.Â We need to really push forward on the tax benefits on hiring people with criminal records. There are ways to do this, but we just need to be creative about it and it has to be something that everybody focuses on.Â I canâ€™t emphasize this enough.Â It canâ€™t just be me.Â It canâ€™t just be the police department.Â Everybody that goes to those meetings has to look at each and say okayâ€”weâ€™re going to do something positive for these young men and women that are coming out of prison.Â Weâ€™re going to reach our hands out.Â Now if they wont take them well then I understand that.Â I know what to do with that.Â Thatâ€™s my job. But we have to give them the opportunity to change their lives.â€
Â On the issue of Black verses brown crime and vice-versa, Beck set the record straight. â€œYou have to be very factual about it.Â Do we have problems with it?Â Yes. Is it at the level the media portrays?Â No.Â And you have to be careful not to create hysteria over this.Â The reality is that young Black men kill young Black men and young brown men kill young brown men.Â Thatâ€™s the 80 percentile or higher of the crimes committed. The vast majority of the time, the person that kills, robs you, or does any other violence to you, looks a lot like you.Â Not always, but the vast majority.Â And in many cases just lives a few blocks away.Â And thatâ€™s the reality of Los Angeles.â€
Â Under Beckâ€™s leadership, residents can expect to have police misconduct complaints fully investigated. â€œComplaints of racial bias have to be thoroughly investigated.Â In the past we have not done as good a job as we couldâ€™ve.Â When bias policing is the basis of a complaint I am going to expect it to be investigated by Internal Affairs, investigated completely and investigated thoroughly.Â Then I expect that it will be adjudicated in a mature way by someone who understands both sides of the issue.Â I also want to make sure that we continue a program where in cases that are likely not to have a resolution because there is no independent witness that the complainant and the officer get to meet and have a discussion.Â A lot of times these things are about conflicts between people and when each party gets a chance to talk about it, thereâ€™s a better feeling of being able to address issues and maybe a learning point on both sides.â€
In addition, Beck says that in-car video is coming to the Southwest Bureau and surrounding bureaus in the near future and said that it will go a long way to breaking some of the stereotypes on both sides.
â€œThe reality is that we donâ€™t have enough resources to cover everything.Â We are an understaffed police department.Â We have a much lower ration of police to residents than Chicago and New Yorkâ€”than any major city.Â So because of that you have to focus resources where the problem is.â€
Â Beck says that if heâ€™s appointed as LAPDâ€™s new chief that doesnâ€™t mean that everything is going to change. â€œIâ€™ve been a part of what weâ€™ve been doing.Â So were the other candidates.Â Itâ€™s been working. Weâ€™ve made tremendous progress.Â Now Iâ€™m not going to do it exactly like Bill Bratton because I canâ€™t, Iâ€™m me.Â I have a different way of looking at things because we come from different places.Â I am a more bottom up guy, while heâ€™s a more top down guy.Â Iâ€™m not going to make dramatic changes because things are working.â€
Â â€œYou will generally see me in uniformâ€”especially at first because I think that one of the things you have to do is get peopleâ€™s mental picture of you.Â Iâ€™ve been a Los Angeles police officer all of my adult life basically and I want people to think of me this way and then I also want the rank and file to think of me as one of theirs.Â And thatâ€™s important on a lot of levels.Â Itâ€™s important because thatâ€™s how you affect changes and behavior.Â Itâ€™s important so that thatâ€™s how you get credibility so that when you have bad news, people understand that itâ€™s the news thatâ€™s bad and not the person thatâ€™s delivering the news.â€
Â â€œI just want for police officers to drive down the street and for people to say Iâ€™m glad theyâ€™re out here.â€