Most who closely tracked the selection of, at first, 13-candidates, then three finalists, and finally Deputy Chief Charlie Beck as the yet-to-be confirmed new chief of the LAPD, have likely read the article by Joel Rubin and Phil Willon in Wednesday morning’s paper, an account of the last minute wrestling match that went on inside the mayor’s office before Antonio Villaraigosa actually settled on Beck as his choice.
To summarize: Rubin and Willon write that the mayor felt intolerably pushed to choose Beck, because Charlie Beck had been Bratton’s choice. The recently departed chief had done a lot of lobbying in Beck’s behalf—some felt to an unseemly degree. Plus there was a cadre of others in and around city hall who were also pushing hard for the personable Deputy Chief.
Understandably irked at the efforts to box him into a choice that might or might not be his own, Antonio rebelled and, even though he actually liked Beck a lot, strongly considered going other directions. In fact, at the last minute, according to the Times the mayor was still dithering over whether to choose Charlie or the Valley Bureau’s deputy chief, Michel Moore.
Rubin and Willon write:
Though many had anointed Beck early on as the favorite to win the job, the outcome behind closed doors, where decisions were actually made, could easily have been different.
Of course, the glaringly ironic thing about this statement is the fact that chief among those “many” who most energetically and publicly “anointed” Beck was the LA Times.
NOTE: Before I get a slew of corrective emails, let me quickly state that I am not suggesting that anyone at the LA Times was campaigning for Charlie Beck. But I am saying they appeared to buy into the spin that was coming both from certain LAPD types and a small cadre in and around the mayor’s office, all of whom had a strong investment in Charlie being the choice.
The upshot was that, in addition to the behind the scenes pressure squeezing the mayor, the city’s main newspaper was yammering that the selection of Beck was nearly a foregone conclusion.
Which was not exactly helpful.
(It was also unhelpful when, the day after the Police Commission’s three finalists were announced, the Times ran an editorial that opined..“The commission has done its job well in winnowing out many less-qualified candidates.”
Dear LA Times: Really? Okay, so by “less-qualified candidates” did you mean Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, the guy who was head of operations during the recent drop in crime, so is credited by most as having a big part in that downturn in crime stats? Or maybe you just meant Assistant Chief Sharon Papa, the first woman in department history to be promoted to that title, and the former Chief of Police for the MTA?
I hate to be picky, but what exactly are you people smoking over there when you write stuff like that?)
Anyway, so back to the mayor’s decision-making process. What seems to be true is that, at the last minute, Villaraigosa genuinely wobbled over his choice.
On Sunday night when AV moved his announcement back a day, from Monday morning to Tuesday morning even people like me assumed that the selection had been firmed up over the weekend, that Beck would be the new chief, and that the delay was merely stagecraft.
We assumed wrong. I now know from my own sources that, on Monday, the mayor was back on the fence again and phoning around to get a few more eleventh hour reads on the candidates.
Then on Monday afternoon, there was a sudden blast of rumors coming out of city hall that all bets were off—and that now AV was leaning toward Michel Moore.
Deputy Chief Moore had been the guy out of the three who—despite his capabilities and his impressive resume—was deemed to be the least likely of the finalists to emerge in the lead simply because, in addition to Bratton and others pushing Beck, a lot of the law enforcement community—inside and outside the LAPD— strongly favored Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, who was also ultra experienced and supremely capable.
By early evening, some of the most ardent Beck supporters were in a flaming panic. The mayor was definitely going for Moore, they said.
Finally, sometime after 9 p.m. the gossip drums grew eerily silent.
Tellingly, Rubin reports that it was at 9 Monday night that Antonio called his staff and advisers to Getty House and introduced them to the new C.O.P.—Charlie Beck.
So what can we learn from all this?-–other than to reaffirm our worst fears that, even on a good day, city politics is just like high school, only with much higher stakes.
Oh, I don’t know.
Look: we have a new choice for chief. Let’s get him confirmed and go forward. And by the way, it’s time to stop saying things like Wednesday morning’s LA Times contention that our newly picked chief was the police commission’s last choice among the three finalists, that Moore was first.
For one thing, the statement simply may not be true When the finalists were announced last Tuesday, KNX reported that Jim McDonnell was the one ranked first, with Beck second. A few days later, the Daily News reported that it was Charlie Beck who was the commission’s first choice. And Wednesday, when I did some of my own checking, my source told me that the Times had the ranking all wrong, but would go no further.
Even if everybody else’s sources are off base, and the Times has this part of the story right, it might have been legitimately useful information before the chief was chosen. But now—not so much.
It is also time to stop saying how much we hope that the new chief will follow in Bill Bratton’s footsteps, blah, blah, blah. Actually, no. We don’t hope that. We adored Bill Bratton, ego and all. He was the right man for the moment. But we don’t need Charlie Beck or anyone else to be a Bratton clone.
As good as Bill was, he could only take us so far. We need a new chief who will have his own vision—who will build on Bratton’s accomplishments by creating his own.
I fully believe Charlie Beck can be that guy. And, yes, yes, there were other equally worthy candidates with other equally worthy strengths and visions.
But, in the end, they didn’t get the job.
Charles L. Beck did.
POST SCRIPT: There is one way we would be wise to hope that soon-to-be Chief Beck does follow Bill Bratton’s lead. And that is in his selection of a command staff. Bratton consistently surrounded himself with the best and brightest people he could find. He never ever resorted to cronyism.
Let us encourage Chief Charlie Beck to do the same.
The men and women who also wanted Beck’s new job are each enormously talented. We would strongly prefer not to lose them.