The City Council on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Charlie Beck as the 55th chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.
A lifelong cop, Beck was the top choice of former Chief William Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Some critics believe that his selection was made too rapidly, without enough public input, but the council has stood wholeheartedly behind him.
Beck has painted himself as an old-school LAPD veteran who had a personal transformation in the early '00s under Bratton and as he took command of his own divisions, which included Central downtown and the troubled Rampart station west of downtown.
His biggest challenge will be how to fight crime under a constrained city budget. The force has always been understaffed compared to other big cities: New York has nearly 36,000 officers. The LAPD has less than 10,000.
Beck has said that the department's numbers have forced an evolution of aggressive policing that, in turn, has in the past alienated the department from minority communities and helped to fan the flames of the 1992 riots. He has said his top priority will be to keep staffing at healthy levels so policing can be fair and effective, but that goal isn't a sure thing.
What's more, Beck will face the release of thousands of criminals as a result of a judge's ruling that was made to relieve state prison overcrowding. Sources have told LA Weekly that more than half of the 40,000 convicts will likely be coming to L.A. county because Los Angeles is by far the biggest source of California criminals.
Beck is far too aware of the issue and has said that police need to work with the community in order to reintegrate the convicts. He has said that if the community does not accept them, gangs will.
“If we don't do reentry programs,” he told a town hall meeting in Van Nuys Nov. 4, “I know 400 entities that will, and they are the gangs of Los Angeles.”
It's a tall order, but we wish him godspeed.
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