By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa chose his official residence as the site to reveal his choice for the new head of the LAPD late Tuesday morning.
Villaraigosa proudly announced that Deputy Chief Charlie Beck is his choice for the 55th Chief of Police for Los Angeles, saying the 33-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran’s “blood is LAPD blue.”
Beck, 56, was chosen over two other finalists–1st Asst. Chief Jim McDonnell and Deputy Chief Michel Moore–to succeed retired Chief William Bratton, who officially stepped down Saturday. Bratton will return to his home in New York, where he will take the job of chief of a company that provides security to post-conflict nations like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Noting that Beck’s father retired as a deputy chief, his sister is a retired LAPD detective and that his wife and children are all in law enforcement, Villaraigosa said Beck knows fully well the meaning and duties involved with wearing the badge.
“He knows the sacrifice of our nearly 10,000 brave men and women,” the mayor said. “I have no doubt that he knows what it will take to make a great chief.’’
Beck, the department’s current head of detectives, said he was humbled to be tapped for the job of L.A’s top cop.
“This is not just a job to me. This is who I am,’’ Beck said. “I’m humbled by the quality of the other candidates, that I would be selected, and because of that feeling, I pledge that I will not disappoint this city,’’ he added.
The next step in the process is for the City Council to confirm Beck as the new chief, which is expected to be a smooth process. The mayor hopes that confirmation can be competed by Nov. 10.
Until then, Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who oversees the LAPD’s counterterrorism unit and was not a candidate for the top job, is serving as interim chief.
Beck’s selection by the mayor comes as little surprise to some, as he was known to many to be favored by both Villaraigosa and Bratton. One local radio station even broke the news of Beck’s selection at least three hours before Tuesday’s announcement.
Still, the three final candidates, selected from a field of 13 by the Los Angeles Police Commission, were interviewed separately and extensively by Villaraigosa, each meeting with the mayor at least twice since last week.
Debra Wong Yang, a member of the commission, said she saw no evidence that Beck’s choosing was a foregone conclusion.
“It was a very clean process, very transparent, and that’s exactly what each candidate deserved,” she said, adding that the commission was keenly sensitive to the fact that there were female and minority candidates, including Deputy Chief Terry Hara.
“I think it’s a credit to the city that we could make the decision on a truly color blind basis,” she said.
Wong Yang called Beck a fabulous and heartfelt individual who embodies the LAPD who boasts a strong commitment to reaching out to the city’s various communities.
“He’s a big thinker,” she said. “He’s able to think creatively and is adept at community policing. Since he’s worked in so many bureaus, he been out there.”
She also cited Beck’s experience in dealing with the city’s gang problems, which includes his heading the department’s former CRASH program in South L.A. As a captain, Beck was assigned by Bratton in 2002 to help clean up the mess that arose from the Rampart corruption scandal, a quagmire that led to a federal consent decree that was lifted earlier this year.
“I met Charlie Beck when he became captain at Central Division and we were facing an enormous challenge with homelessness and crime in Skid Row. He was at all times sensitive to community needs, used effective community policing to address crime, and began, what I consider, a major effort to restore the community and make it habitable for the many thousands of people that live, work, and seek recovery services there,” Councilwoman Jan Perry, president pro tempore for the Los Angeles City Council and member of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee said in a statement Tuesday.
“I found in Chief Beck a strong partner, an individual that was an honest broker in his efforts, a man that was uniformly respected by the rank and file and a person who always communicated in an honest and straight forward manner. I trusted him and I believe he trusted me. We shared a common purpose and we worked hard together,” the councilwoman continued.
The new head of the LAPD will take the helm after a period of successful growth and reforms under Bratton, a task that will be under the watchful eyes of several of the city’s communities.
Brian Kito, president of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, said he is looking forward to working with the incoming chief, and hopes Beck will better acquaint himself with Little Tokyo and its culture.
“I think most communities around the city are happy that they hired from within,” Kito said. “He has big shoes to fill, and I’m glad that he was a part of Bratton’s inner circle and philosophy.
“It comes down to the fact that Bratton made his mark with a common sense-approach,” Kito added. “The new chief and his deputies should not divert from that approach. It just makes sense.”
Kito also feels that Chief Beck will be wise to hit the streets and reintroduce himself to neighborhoods across the city, a process that had begun as Kito spoke. Mayor Villaraigosa held a town hall meeting at the Expo Center Tuesday afternoon, which will be followed by similar events Wednesday and Thursday in Van Nuys and El Sereno, respectively.
“Obviously, he’s an experienced officer, but he can certainly benefit now from more exposure,” Kito said.
—Additional information from Rafu wire service reports.