Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is calling it a career. After 40 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, 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 chief in 2009.
In April 2014, on a 4-1 vote, Beck was given a second five-year term as police chief by the Los Angeles Police Commission, a civilian oversight board. Then Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said: “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 as chief. Beck had been accused of unfair disciplinary practices by the Los Angeles Police Protective League. He also angered the Police Commission when it was discovered that he had falsified crime stats and hidden the fact that some officers had disabled video recording devices.
Commissioner Robert M. Saltzman was critical of Beck, saying “the department would be served best by new leadership” and “the chief has fallen short of our expectations.” Nevertheless, a second term was granted.
Saltzman further expressed concerns similar to the protective league in that, “The most important of these problem areas are showing fairness and consistency in discipline and transparency and respect for civilian oversight.”
Saltzman went on to state he 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.
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 called a Board of Rights. Many of the readers may know the Dorner story and what happened in February 2013.
Having referenced the Dorner incident, let me state unequivocally that I do not condone Dorner’s actions. I do, however, understand. I acknowledge and affirm that the LAPD has a two-tiered system of discipline that is 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.”
Let us contrast what happened to Dorner with how 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 should be terminated.
But because Hillman was the son of a retired LAPD officer and nephew of a LAPD deputy chief and a friend to Beck; Shaun Hillman was gifted with a 65-day suspension.
You see, it is not what you know on the LAPD but who you know. If your cart is attached 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 daughter 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, Beck is leaving two years prior to completing his second term. I bet if you ask the parents of Ezell Ford, they would probably wish he had left a lot sooner.
In 2014, Beck exonerated the LAPD gang officers responsible for the shooting death of Ezell 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, there is cause for celebration in other parts of the city. 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. Citizens of Los Angeles have an opportunity and an affirmative responsibility to become engaged and involved in the selection process of the next chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.
So, when community meetings are held seeking input as to the values and expectations of this next chief, let your voices be heard. Anyone wanting this position should be required to articulate clearly an 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, a retired LAPD sergeant, is the author of autobiography “Black and Blue, The Creation of A Manifesto.“ Her column runs the second Thursday of each month in The Wave. For more information, visit www.sgtcheryldorsey.com and follow her on Twitter @sgtcheryldorsey.