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‘Onion Field’ killers focus of LAPD Chief Beck’s ‘Southland’ cameo

March 16, 2013 |  6:00 am

Charlie Beck Southland
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck took his place behind the podium. Cameras flashed. Reporters stood at the ready.

But Beck's news conference in front of Parker Center, the old LAPD headquarters, wasn't a typical meeting with the media. For one, it wasn't real.

The chief and other LAPD officials filmed a cameo Friday for the season finale of TNT's L.A.-based police drama, "Southland." Beck declined to talk about details, but said the episode will relate to the so-called "Onion Field" killers who in 1963 kidnapped two LAPD officers and killed one outside Bakersfield.

"They asked me to play the chief of police, and I figured I could do that," Beck said.

The shoot took five takes to wrap and lasted about 20 minutes, Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.

"It worked out great, and the chief was a natural," Smith said.

Smith said the real LAPD officers would probably have just a few quick spots in the finale, but said it would be a "very powerful and moving scene and very powerful and moving episode."

But, as is often the case, reality intruded somewhat on the shoot. The scene was supposed to be filmed at the new police headquarters, but an unscripted anti-police protest required that it be moved to Parker Center. Smith said a permit for the demonstration indicated 500 people would be there, but only four showed up, causing no problems for the television crews.

The LAPD officials involved had the day off, Smith said. Beck said he planned to donate his check from the show to Homeboy Industries, a job placement program for ex-gang members..

"Southland" has drawn praise from critics -- and law enforcement – for its gritty portrayal of L.A.'s streets. Both Beck and Smith said they were fans.

"A lot of what I like about the show and what a lot of other cops like about the show is that they weave real events and real issues into the story line," Smith said.


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Photo: A film crew shoots a scene from the season finale of TNT's 'Southland' in which LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is seen addressing a news conference in front of Parker Center. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times