Charlie Beck has been part of the Los Angeles Police Department for more than 40 years and has run it for the last eight. His father was a Los Angeles cop; two of his children are, too.
“It is my DNA,” Beck said in a phone interview Monday. “I was formed by this organization.”
Now, though, he says it’s time to step aside. This month, Beck announced he would retire. His last day will be June 27 — his 65th birthday.
“It’s the right time for the city,” he said, noting that Los Angeles’ mayor, Eric Garcetti, and the current members of its police commission and City Council are the “right people” to pick his successor “in the right time of their careers to do it.”
“The current staff that I have has a number of really, really outstanding potential candidates,” he added.
Beck was essentially a rookie when Daryl F. Gates — a hard-liner with an aggressive approach to law enforcement — took over the department decades ago; he was a sergeant during the riots that burned the city in 1992 and forced Gates’ resignation; and he was chief when the once-beleaguered department got out from under a consent decree that had been aimed at battling corruption in one of the department’s divisions.
“My goal has always been to not only restore the city’s faith in its police department, but to restore the police department’s faith in itself,” Beck said. “And I think I’ve been a big part of doing that.”
As the leader of one of the nation’s largest police departments, Beck has had to contend with crippling budget cuts, a deadly, dayslong rampage by a former officer who targeted police and their families, and heavy, sustained criticism of police shootings.
Perhaps more than anything, though, Beck has had to keep the police department on the path of reform as it tries to escape the shadow of its checkered past and regain the community’s trust.
“He’s been inside the department for 42 years,” Steve Soboroff, the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, said of Beck. “If you’re a reformer over that period of time that means you have to change because policing has changed — and he has.”
“Will you find 200 people wearing T-shirts that say ‘Fire Charlie Beck’? Sure,” Soboroff added. “But I’ll show you 3.8 million people who think he’s done a heck of a job.”