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Tue, Jun

Why is LA Police Chief Charlie Beck a ‘No Show’?

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NC LAND-I don’t know if Charlie Beck should be renewed for another five-year term as LA Police Chief.  I don’t know that he shouldn’t.  I do know that his accessibility to the community is something less than noteworthy. 

My interest was piqued by his lack of appearances at any Neighborhood Council (NC) meetings.  He had been invited to address the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) at their July meeting - and supposedly cancelled the day before he was to appear.  As of today he has not made any effort to reschedule. 

In May, the Police Chief wrote a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti asking to be reconfirmed for another five -year term.  He felt he had accomplished a great deal and wanted another five years to be able to finish what he started. 

Previously, several members of the Police Commission had complained publicly that the Chief wasn’t very attentive to the Commission. They are the body responsible for making the recommendation to the Mayor regarding the next five years.  Since the Chief’s term is up in November, they have until August 19 to make a decision.  Coincidentally, he then embarked on a “bonding mission” with the five Commissioners and no complaints have been heard recently. 

Community Meetings 

Two Community meetings were scheduled in June—one near the airport and the other in East Los Angeles.  Council Member Bob Blumenfield also hosted a San Fernando Valley meeting, which was well attended … East LA attendance was sparse. 

LA’s history with Police Chiefs has been tumultuous at best.  Up until the early nineties the Police Chief position was under Civil Service and the office was like a fiefdom. Going back to Chief Parker who served sixteen years, Ed Davis nine years and Darryl Gates fourteen years, it was almost impossible to replace the Chief unless there were criminal actions.  Los Angeles political history shows that corruption; favoritism, graft and greed were commonplace. 

This changed when Tom Bradley became Mayor.  Apparently there was no love lost between Gates and Bradley (who also had a police background).  The beating of Rodney King exacerbated this.  When the “not guilty “ decision was announced in favor of the police involved, South LA erupted into riots. It was a well-known secret that the Mayor and the Chief had not spoken in a year. 

Christopher Commission 

Because of the ongoing problems in the Police Department, the Federal government stepped in and put the Police Department under watch with very specific guidelines.  A Commission was established to analyze the situation and make specific recommendations. 

According to an LA Times report, “The Christopher Commission, named for Los Angeles attorney (and future U.S. secretary of State) Warren Christopher, concluded that the chief was too unaccountable to the city's civilian Police Commission, which was supposed to set policy for the LAPD and to supervise its chief. Partly to blame, the Christopher Commission concluded, were civil service protections that in effect created a ‘chief for life.’ Instead, the commission recommended that chiefs be limited to 10 years in office, with a midpoint review.” 

These dramatic changes, including the removable of the position from civil service to Mayoral appointment, were put on the ballot, passed and became part of the City Charter.  Ten years was considered to be long enough to see projects completed and short enough to encourage new faces. At the same time the Commission wanted built in assurances that they could pull the plug on any Chief not fulfilling his position at the end of the five year mid-contract review.  

It was meant more as a check to see if policies needed change or improvement rather than a mechanism for dismissal. Only two Chiefs subsequently have not had their five-year renewal contract: Willy Williams and Bernard Parks.  Beck’s predecessor William Bratton served seven years but resigned to enter the private sector. The Police Commission was given more power over the police department but the Mayor has the final decision on the appointment. 

Chief Beck has accomplished a lot in five years.  The federal supervision has been lifted. Crime has continued to go down, even though it has spiked in the last month.  The Chief was able to weather the budget crisis and even though overtime and new positions were frozen, the City did not suffer more crime. 

Law Suits 

There is still an ongoing problem with lawsuits.  The City pays out millions of dollars in lawsuits because of police actions, whether it is against civilians or fellow officers.  Chief Beck’s propensity to go to court rather than settle cases, has caused bigger payouts than what would have other been settled by arbitration or mediation. 

He ran into trouble before the June election when he became the spokesperson for Proposition A, the half-cent sales tax increase.  He stated that the City would be in big trouble if Prop A didn’t pass.  There are still unanswered questions about that entire subject. 

Vociferous opponent of Prop A, CityWatch’s LA Watchdog Jack Humphreville, commented “How does he justify his support of Proposition A when immediately after 55% of the voters rejected this half cent sales tax increase, the City managed to find $325 million in new revenue and $50 million in pension savings?” 

Little Accessibility 

All of these questions have merit. The relatively new City Hall team is very accessible and we have come to expect everyone to be as accessible as they are.   I called the LAPD “Media Relations Office” whose description promises almost 24 -hour access for the press.  I had searched the web site for community events and only one was listed without a date. The web site had sparse information. I was told to email a request to the Public Information office and someone would get back to me…  so much for speedy access and press support. 

Both LANCC and the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils (WRAC) asked again for Chief Beck to appear at a Town Hall.  The NC’s are very involved in police related activities like Neighborhood Watch, supporting the Cadets, etc.  They also work very closely with their individual regional officer. 


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When I called Jay Handal, Vice-Chair for WRAC to see if there had been any progress he said, “As vice-chair of WRAC, and again on behalf of LAANC, I reached out to Chief Beck inviting him to PICK A DATE good for him, to hold a town hall to discuss his re-appointment. As of this writing, it is his disappointing actions not reappointment we are concerned about. His failure to meet with the charter mandated Neighborhood Councils, who are required to weigh in on delivery of city services, is unacceptable! " 

Will He or Won’t He 

I began this article by saying I don’t know if Chief Beck should serve another term.  Continuity is important in such a large and complex department. He comes from a police family.  His father was Deputy Chief and he has two children in the police force.  He has a historical perspective and can remember when most of the City viewed the police force with suspicion.  Citizens are eager to partner with the police.  They are entitled to know what his vision is for the next five years and how he is going to implement it. 

Mayor Garcetti has based his tenure on transparency in government.  Chief Beck we look forward to hearing from you at a Neighborhood Council Town Hall.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a contributor to CityWatch covering activities, policies and foibles in NC Land.  She is Co-Chair, Program Committee for the LA Neighborhood Congress to be held September 20 at City Hall, and a former officer and Board member of the Tarzana Neighborhood Council.  She can be reached at [email protected]

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 12 Issue 60

Pub: Jul 25, 2014

 

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