Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is calling it a career. After 40 years on the LAPD, Beck recently announced he is retiring in June.
Beck joined the LAPD in 1975 as a reserve officer, became a full-time police officer in 1977, and was appointed to Chief in 2009.
Then, in April 2014, in a 4-1 vote, Beck received a second 5-year term by the LA Police Commission, a civilian oversight board. Then-Commission President Steve Soboroff said for his yes vote, “the positives far outweigh the negatives and the current problems and perceptions of problems …” You see, there were many challenges facing Beck’s consideration for a second term. He had been accused of unfair disciplinary practices by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, while also angering the Commission by falsifying crime stats and hiding the fact that some officers had disabled video recording devices.
Despite Commissioner Robert M. Saltzman’s belief that “the Department would be served best by new leadership ...” and “…the Chief has fallen short of our expectations,” a second term was granted.
Saltzman further expressed concerns like ones the Protective League cited: “The most important of these problem areas are showing fairness and consistency in discipline and transparency and respect for civilian oversight.” Further, Saltzman was troubled by “a number of cases in which officer discipline appeared too lenient or inconsistent with similar cases.”
So, let’s review Beck’s disciplinary record. You be the judge.
Beck is leaving two years before completing his second term. I bet if you were to ask the parents of Ezell Ford—the unarmed 25-year-old black man killed by LAPD officers in 2014—they’d probably say that they wished Beck had left a lot sooner.
In 2009, Beck fired Christopher Dorner, a black LAPD officer who had been found guilty of giving false and misleading statements during an administrative hearing known as a "Board of Rights." Many readers may be familiar with the Dorner story and how it ended in February 2013 when he was killed in a standoff with police officers after a shooting spree. While unequivocally I do NOT condone Dorner’s actions, I do however understand. I know that the LAPD has a two-tiered system of discipline that is both arbitrary and capricious. I, too, was the victim of that system and wrote about it in my autobiography, The Creation of a Manifesto, Black and Blue.
Contrast what happened to Dorner with how Chief Beck disciplined white LAPD officer Shaun Hillman. Officer Hillman, like Dorner, was found guilty of giving false and misleading statements. A Board of Rights recommended that Hillman be terminated. But because he was the son of a retired LAPD officer, nephew of a LAPD deputy chief, and friend to Beck, Hillman received an ever so gentle 65-day suspension.
You see, it is not what you know on the LAPD but who you know. If your cart is hitched to the right horse, you get the “homie hook-up.” Much like Hillman, Beck’s daughter, an LAPD officer, also benefited from that relationship. Beck approved an LAPD purchase of a horse for his baby girl to ride as a member of the LAPD Mounted Unit. Beck lied about the purchase initially—only to change his tune when documents surfaced indicating he approved the purchase.
How about that for transparency?
So now, Beck is leaving two years before completing his second term. I bet if you were to ask the parents of Ezell Ford—the unarmed 25-year-old black man killed by LAPD officers in 2014—they’d probably say that they wished Beck had left a lot sooner.
As it turns out, in 2014, Beck initially recorded a message of support and then later exonerated the LAPD gang officers responsible for the shooting death of Ford, a mentally challenged man. This, after the Police Commission found the deadly shooting violated policy and was unjustified.
While some will lament Beck’s early departure, other parts of the city are celebrating. Those of us who did not have our collective carts hooked to the Beck horse probably won’t be attending his retirement party. And to those disenfranchised neighborhoods—a new day is dawning. LA citizens have an affirmative responsibility to become engaged in the selection process of the next LAPD chief.
So, at community meetings seeking input on the values and expectations of the next chief, let your voices be heard. Demand that anyone wanting to replace Beck articulate a clear understanding of what police reform, accountability, and justice looks like in the minority communities this new chief will swear to protect and serve. Let’s ask the tough questions—and more importantly, demand the right answers.
Cheryl Dorsey is a retired LAPD sergeant, social justice advocate, and much sought after police expert on important issues making national headlines. As such she has appeared as a frequent commentator on CNN, Fox News, KABC Talk Radio w/ Dr. Drew, KPCC and NPR. For more www.sgtcheryldorsey.com follow her on Twitter @sgtcheryldorsey