Charlie Beck LAPD

Decoding LAPD Chief Charlie Beck’s Surprise Retirement Announcement

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Friday, January 19, at an otherwise routine press conference with Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Chief of Police Charlie Beck abruptly announced his retirement, startling even some of the officers who had accompanied him to the press event.

“Serving the citizens of Los Angeles for over 40 years has been the honor of a lifetime. Leading the men and women of the #LAPD—my family—has been a privilege I never thought I’d be worthy of,” Beck wrote shortly after the announcement in a series of tweets.

“I plan on working every day until that day as the Chief of the greatest law enforcement agency in the country. I believe we are in the right place to support my decision, and give the next generation of #LAPD leaders an opportunity to lead.

“The department is ready for fresh eyes to take our organization to even higher levels. Thank you Los Angeles for allowing me to serve you for all these years. God bless all of you, and god bless the Los Angeles Police Department.”

The news, while unanticipated in the moment, was not unexpected. Those who know Beck well had long thought that, when he felt the time was right, he would step away from the chief’s job, whether his latest five-year term was finished or not.

Chief Charlie Beck Makes Retirement Announcement

During last Friday’s announcement, Beck made it clear he believed that the departure date he had chosen was the right one for him personally, and for the department he loves.

While the LAPD is, in many ways his life, being chief is not something that defines Charlie Beck, said one longtime department friend, who asked not to be named. “He has never been enamored with the power of the job.”

Approximately a nano-second after Beck made his decision public, talk began about who might succeed him, and whether that person should be an insider or an outsider. Names began to be floated.

Talk also began about how Beck’s more than eight-year tenure as the city’s top cop will ultimately be assessed. The answer to that question, not surprisingly, differs greatly, depending on who is doing the assessing.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board asked if police shootings would “taint” Beck’s legacy. In general, however, the Times praised Beck who, the board wrote, “helped instill a more open, reform-oriented culture.” He was smart, the editorial board said, “and his heart was in the right place,” adding that Beck’s embrace of departmental reform in the post-Rampart era “was a strong signal to the rank-and-file, to the city’s political leaders and to communities that often suffered brutal policing tactics that the new thinking and new practices were there to stay.”

Yet, they further noted that when Beck and the department found the fatal shooting of mentally ill man, Ezell Ford within policy, the police commission sharply and publically differed.

With this latter point and a list of related issues in mind, Dr. Melina Abdullah, the respected chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, who is also one of the highest profile organizers for the LA branch of Black Lives Matter, looked at Beck’s upcoming exit as a victory for the chief’s critics.

“On Friday we #FiredBeck for leading the #MostMurderous police department in the nation,” she posted on Instagram the day that the chief made his announcement. “We camped out at police headquarters (18 days), the mayor’s residence (3 days), city hall (54 days), wrote, circulated and signed a petition signed by 1000s of Angelenos, wrote articles, sat on panels, organized protests, went to police commission meetings every single week, got arrested, subjected ourselves to police targeting and abuse, called the mayor’s office every single day, flyered neighborhoods, held meetings, prayed, chanted, and fought, and fought…and today…WE WON! #ByeByeBeck.”

Father Greg Boyle , who is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the nation’s largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry programs program in the nation, and the author of Tattoos on the Heart, and the recently released, Barking to the Choir, had a different point of view.

When we asked him, via email, to respond to Beck’s announcement, he wrote back about his experience a Friday night panel where he was featured. “One of the panelists,” he said, “mentioned that Charlie had announced his resignation earlier that day…and a young woman clapped and yelled joyously.

“I thought to myself, ‘You’re young…you don’t know any better. I’ve lived in LA for half a century. Charlie [is] hands down the best chief probably in the department’s history.’”

Charlie Beck, June 2016, retirement part for former LAPD Assistant Chief, Earl Paysinger (WLA)


Looking back to look forward

When he leaves the department in five months, tall, craggy-faced Beck, will have worn the LAPD badge for more than 41 years. He became a full-time sworn in March 1997, after having spent two years in the department’s reserve program.

Prior to going into law enforcement, Beck had planned to ride motocross professionally.

In fact, in November 2009, when Beck was chosen by then Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to replace Bill Bratton as chief of the LAPD, he still competed in motocross events and was, at that time, in all seriousness, the Police and Fire Motocross national champion.

Still Beck has always been seen as a cops cop. His father was an LAPD deputy chief. His sister was a detective. His son and his daughter both work for the department. He met his wife, who has retired from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, through police work.

Yet, unlike some of his contemporaries, Beck never seemed to long for the top job. In fact, when Bratton stepped down in 2009, Beck was already enrolled in the department’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or “DROP” system, an optional, voluntary program that allows an officer to “retire,” then be rehired by the department for a five-year period. The plan benefits both the city budget and the “retiree.” But, after five years, he or she is out.

In other words, Beck was already semi headed for the door when he was persuaded by the departing Bratton, civil rights attorney, Connie Rice, and others, that he was the right insider to follow-up on the reforms that the high profile east coast outsider chief had already instituted in Los Angeles.

At the time, Beck had worked assignments across the departmental spectrum: gang units, undercover narcotics, Internal Affairs. His star began to rise most precipitously in 2006, when Bratton promoted him to Deputy Chief and gave him command of the agency’s South Bureau where he gained a strong reputation for working successfully with the hard core gang intervention groups, which were staffed by former gang members, that many previous commanders in the department had long shunned.

When Bratton moved Beck again to take over the detective bureau, he became problem-solver-in-chief, taking on the faulty fingerprint analysis debacle that was a department embarrassment, and then the rape kit backlog mess after that. Of the three finalists, he was the one openly talked about as Bratton’s choice to succeed him.

(The other two finalists were Michael Moore, now the LAPD’s First Assistant Chief, and Jim McDonell, now the Los Angeles County Sheriff.)

Chief Beck with civil rights attorney, Connie Rice (WLA)

In the eight plus years between 2009 and now, Beck continued his problem-solving, reform-minded efforts, which were mostly successful. Yet, he also made a few vexing mistakes, including a some glaring inconsistencies in officer discipline, along with a spate of misclassifications of crimes that occurred on his watch. And he presided over at least one prominent catastrophe, namely the 2013 murderous rampage of rogue officer Christopher Dorner who began targeting police officers and their families in a one man reign of terror after writing a rambling manifesto that detailed how he felt marginalized by still present departmental racism. Some department members, while condemning Dorner’s horrific actions, said that, when it came to the lingering but corrosive racism, Dorner did not have that part wrong.

The following year, Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. Four days after that, on August 11, in South Los Angeles, Ezell Ford, a mentally ill man familiar to the police, was shot and killed by LAPD officers, and to many, these and other shootings suggested an alarming pattern.

In 2016, two years later still, Beck talked about the issue of police shootings on KPCC’s Larry Mantle, and expressed his frustration over what he described as the lack of candid dialogue that he felt was too often missing from that national and the local discussion on the topic. Instead, he said, “people” pontificated, “only presenting their point of view and not listening” to other people.

“Nobody strives for empathy, nobody tries to understand the view of others,” Beck said. “Everybody just go to their polarized opposites. We’ll never get closer to a solution if people try to do that.”

That same year, Beck talked to Joe Domanick, for an interview that was cross published in WitnessLA and the Crime Report.

Dominick the assocate director of John Jay College’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice, and the author of two books on the LAPD: To Protect and to Serve, and Blue; The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing,. The chief’s answers to two of his questions in particular are interesting to read today.

Domanick: What do you want to get done during the remaining three years of your term?

Beck: I want to get back on track with crime, be the model in building community trust, and get people to have faith in this police department to the extent that the national conversation [about how police abuse] may have damaged it.

Domanick: LA has a long history of combative LAPD chiefs like Ed Davis, Daryl Gates and Bernard Parks who warred with the media and other critics, and made the LAPD all about themselves. Even Bill Bratton, who courted the press and public, made the department about ‘Bill Bratton the Reformer.’ You on the other hand, have kept a remarkably low profile. Why?

Beck: The chief of police should not be everybody’s focus of interest.. My ideal scenario is having a police department that [the public] believes in more than they believe in the chief. I have got a finite time [in office], a goodbye date. I have to create an organization that will continue [to get better]. We made huge progress in Bratton’s administration and hopefully in mine. I want that to [pass that on] to the next chief.

As Chief Beck said last Friday, the five month lead time his announcement eliminates the need for an interim chief, while also giving the city plenty of time for “an exhaustive search to find the right chief.”

We will, of course, be watching that process closely.

20 Comments

  • Christopher Dorner murdered four completely innocent people. This included two police officers , the daughter of a LAPD department member and her African-American boyfriend. ( I know her boyfriend’s race shouldn’t matter but this blog seems obsessed with keeping score on all things racial) During this crime spree Dorner sent a written manifesto to to the media. It was completely unhinged. It included call outs to Celebrities even giving them advise, as Dorner imagined he was then also a celebrity. It was a narcissisc rant, and like all narcissists Dorner blamed everyone else for the failure his life had become. Everyone from school teachers to members of the LAPD who had unfortunatly made the mistake of hiring Dorner as a police officer before realizing their mistake and appropriately firing him.
    Well, at least Witness LA recognizes Dorner’s actions as “horrific” ,as Witness La never misses a chance to report on how “some say”Dorner’s description of his treatment at LAPD “rang true” or was otherwise accurate. Clearly Witness la is using the common media weasel move of citing others in order advance it’s own agenda. Think about it, this is the extent of Witness La’s bias and it is truly profound. It would be comparable to talking about the “horiffic” actions of Charles Manson and then saying,” but what Manson had to say about the LAPD, now that stuff really rings true!” Any of you current or retired law enforcement people out there who think Celeste has anything but a deep seated bias against those institutions might want to keep this in mind.

    • Your colourful comments have zero to do with Charlie Beck. Your dated tirade on Dorner and Manson topped with your hatred towards WLA shows how silly and off track you are. Grow up.

      • Pointing out witness la’s bias is always on track regardless of the date. Now Charlie Beck, just another political hack, Mcdonnell,Beck, pretty much the same guy ,not a dimes worth of difference between the two. Although Beck does have the endorsement Fr.Boyle, patron saint of blowhard narcissists, so he’s got that going for him.

  • Good luck to the chief no matter what he does. For those who believe that his retirement was a good thing please recall history when Willie Williams was the chief. All the liberal left was shouting from the rafters at Williams’ appointment. And don’t forget that the City of LA nearly hit an iceberg when Lee Baca nearly became chief. Next, the City of Baltimore got a new chief and BLM told the cops to stay out of the high crime areas. Of course the murder rate is now on a record climb in Baltimore and the same will happen her in LA. More Black children murdering each other and our answer is to legalize dope?

    Be careful what you ask for!

  • Surely there were highs & lows during the tenure of Charlie Beck, but nepotism shadowed his legacy. He was many grades above Daryl Gates who was a throwback to Bull Connor but not as esteemed as Bill Bratton who in my opinion was the best Chief that LAPD ever had. Shameful that LAPD and LASD have had to go outside of their ranks to find a competent leader.

  • Our L.A. BLM leader is deserving of no respect except from other loons like Celeste. She recently held a seance where she tried to cop haters, killers those types and her screwed up kids are trying to get LAUSD to kick the police out of their schools. She had nothing to do with Beck leaving, she’s simply insane but his departure is fine.

  • Jim McDonnell now has a second chance. He has the experience and his corruption busting is second to none. Los Angeles can reap real reform.

    • @Carolin,
      Jim Mcdonnell a reformer , that is laughable. He is the biggest fraud to ever hit lasd. Lasd hopes he does go back to Lapd because he is an incompetent leader who has produced a false narrative to the public. 300 list is a shame, crime is down is not true and department morale at all time low.

      • @ CC, With your comment being said, tell all of those involved or affected to get off their ass and do something. Your unions should lead the charge if there is any validity to your post. When all is said and done, usually more is said than done. Fence straddling doesn’t count.

        • @retired deputy
          You will get no arguement from me. Alads and ppoa are weak. It’s simple, send a survey out to all members who we want to get behind for sheriff. Whoever gets most votes, the unions get behind. They won’t do that because we all know it won’t be Mcdonnell and the boards don’t want to rock the boat.

        • The LASD unions are made up of active Department members who will not fight hard against the executives since their union position/power can be fleeting. The only sure fire way to get the attention of the Department executives, BOS and perhaps taxpayers is for the staff to launch a class action lawsuit. Hit folks in their pocket books and name executives as parties and things will change and get moving.

          Alas…only a pipe dream. Unlike the criminals represented by the ACLU with their deep donor pockets, and DOJ/OIG fault finders….no employees have the finances or backing to go forward. The Department and County know this and will continue screwing over those at the bottom.

          Funny….the ACLU at one time actually fought for workers rights and was a champion for better working conditions of the under represented working man/woman. How times have changed and devolved.

      • @ Conspiracy & Clam Chowder, Unions could possibly be done with having their way doing whatever they choose to do. This may very well be decided at the end of next month and before May of this year. Many agree that forcing members to pay dues to support political plays and pawns will soon end.

    • Corruption busting, Jim Mc Donnell, those two phrases should NEVER be used in the same paragraph!! That is laughable! If he was really serious about reform he would not have kept the corrupt command staff. He had an email list of all of Tanaka’s followers, he knows who they are. Many are now in the upper echelon of the department. He just keeps promoting them!

  • ALADS and PPOA are currently staring into the abyss, not knowing how to proceed after playing decades as the doormat for sheriff’s campaigns. The SCOTUS is about to rule on agency shop, which was left on a 4-4 tie in 2016 and has been refiled with the completion of a full court with Gorsuch, a certified righty.

    It’s pretty basic. If both unions fail to get involved to the extend their membership dues indicate they should, they will lose half of the members overnight, and the other half within the month. Being the certified bargaining doormat is not going to attract new members or retain current ones. It’s easier to get a legal defense plan and call it a day for many, if not most.

    Time will tell and the clock is ticking.

      • “All closed eyes aren’t asleep” thus the members will witness ALADS biggest expenditure to date this May, Superior Court Case BC540789. You can scroll it yourself and add it up. Yeah, million plus in attorney’s fees for ALADS, compliments of every deputy in LASD under the rank of Sgt. Way to go Ron!

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