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Charlie Beck named L.A.'s new chief of police

November 17, 2009 | 10:13 am

The Los Angeles City Council today appointed Charlie Beck as the city's new police chief.

The council unanimously approved Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's nomination at a hearing this morning. There was no organized opposition to the nomination of Beck, currently an LAPD deputy chief, but the stakes are high.

The choice comes at a time of uncertainty for the department as Beck will be given the task of sustaining former Police Chief William J. Bratton’s hard-won gains amid dwindling city budgets. Beck, 56, has risen quickly through the department’s command ranks in recent years and was viewed widely as the favorite to be selected by the mayor.

From his success in rehabilitating the Rampart Division, which had been at the center of a corruption scandal, and later as head of the LAPD’s forces in South Los Angeles, he has earned praise from police and civic leaders for blending a tough stance on crime with a progressive approach to improving the police department’s relationship with the public.

Villaraigosa chose Beck nearly three months after Bratton announced he would step down at the end of October. During his seven years as chief, Bratton oversaw dramatic declines in crime and improved long-strained relations between police and minority communities.

With the department budget being battered by the city’s fiscal crisis and morale of rank-and-file officers wavering in the face of a new contract that offers no pay raises, Beck faces a serious challenge in maintaining the progress of the last several years.

During a city council committee hearing last week on Beck's nomination, community leaders and council members praised his work and called him the right man to take over the department right now.

Beck made his own presentation, saying his top goal was to extend the reforms begun by Bratton and move them down into the rank and file of the department. He said he would concentrate on continuing reforms Bratton introduced into the mind-set of the thousands of officers who are the heart of the organization.

"Now is the time to push down into the patrol cars," Beck said of the reforms, adding that this effort would be the "hallmark of my leadership." In interviews, Beck said he planned to give greater authority to the captains who run the department's dozens of field stations.

Currently, decisions on how to deploy a large segment of the department's force are made by commanders at LAPD headquarters. Field captains should have more discretion, Beck said.

Amid an ongoing debate over the size of the force and whether the city should continue to fund an effort by the mayor to add 1,000 officers, Beck said he believed the current number of officers, which hovers near 10,000, should be viewed as "a floor, a basement." Any drop in numbers, he said, would make it difficult to continue the gains made under Bratton.

-- Joel Rubin at L.A. City Hall

Photos: Charlie Beck sworn in as LAPD chief

Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa swears in Charlie Beck as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department after the City Council unanimously approved his nomination at a hearing this morning. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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