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Chief Beck travels to London for global gang summit

October 10, 2011 |  3:03 pm

Bratton beck 
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is traveling to London this week to trade notes with law enforcement officials from around the world on how to combat gang crime.

The idea for the two-day event, which will be attended by gang experts from 10 nations including Austria, Spain and Jamaica, came out of riots that spread through English cities in August, leaving five people dead.

Police there came under heavy criticism for their hesitant handling of the upheaval. Angry finger-pointing followed the turmoil, as British officials, news media and citizens debated heatedly what role organized gangs played in spurring the violence and how much of it was a result of general discontent.

Organizers have said they hope the forum will help British police improve their anti-gang strategies.

With Los Angeles’ reputation as the birthplace of American gang culture, Beck received an invitation to participate from British Home Secretary Theresa May, according to an announcement released by the LAPD.

In recent years the city has made progress reducing gang crime, in part because of cooperation between the LAPD and a revamped network of intervention programs. Gang members, however, account for about half of the city’s homicides -– a disproportionate level of violence that has remained largely unchanged in recent years.

It will be the first international trip for Beck as chief. In general, he has said he dislikes traveling for work and keeps his time away from Los Angeles to a minimum.

Beck will have share the spotlight with his predecessor, William Bratton, who served as LAPD chief for seven years. Bratton has long been a subject of fascination in the British press, which would occasionally float rumors during Bratton’s time in L.A. that he was heading abroad to take over London’s police department.

After the summer riots, British Prime Minister David Cameron reignited such talk when he floated Bratton as a candidate to fill the top spot at Scotland Yard. The idea met still opposition from officials who said the new chief should be British.

Instead, Cameron announced that he would consult informally with Bratton on gang issues. Bratton currently serves as chairman of Kroll, an international risk consulting firm.

The forum will conclude with a reception at No. 10 Downing Street hosted by Cameron.


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-- Joel Rubin


Photo: Then Police Chief William J. Bratton (at right) with potential successors, including Charlie Beck (on left), now the chief. Credit: Gary Friedman /Los Angeles Times