LAPD Chief Beck answers questions at town hall

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Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Charlie Beck responds to questions from a Los Angeles City Council panel Monday Nov. 9, 2009, in Los Angeles. The panel recommended Monday that Beck be confirmed as Los Angeles' 55th chief of police. Beck, 56, a veteran for 33 years, is expected to succeed former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck answered questions Wednesday night in a special edition of KPCC's Patt Morrison's "Ask the Chief" feature. Beck spoke and answered questions about undocumented immigration and Special Order 40, gang intervention, the end of the consent decree, and other topics.

Beck defended Special Order 40, which prohibits LAPD officers from questioning detainees on their immigration status. "I agree with it to my core," said Beck, adding "A person's [immigration] status is not a reason for law enforcement to be initiated."

Beck emphasized its importance in maintaining strong relationships with communities, saying that "if I don't have a relationship with a large portion of my community because they are afraid of my officers because we initiate contact due to immigration status, then I will fail." He added, "I do things because I believe they're right, but it just doubles my conviction when they're not only right but they make me effective.

Beck took issue with the theory that gang violence is down due to an aging gang population. "Gang membership is not down. Gang violence is down." Beck said that the police target the violence, not the individuals, but noted that some individuals are more prone to violence and are targeted due to that.

Beck also defended the Safer City Initiative and the way the law is enforced on Skid Row, telling one audience member that while poor people may get arrested, "We never arrest anybody for being poor and unemployed."

Beck said that his belief in gang intervention is "the primary thing" he brings to the table, adding "this will eventually be the solution to gang violence that gets exported out of L.A."

Beck talked about the new gang intervention academy, which received a $200,000 budget from the City Council, saying that he believes this will improve gang intervention.

Beck addressed the possibility of the state adding speed cameras in L.A., saying that he supports them. He said, as chief of police, he can't look at things as a revenue generator. "I have to look at them as a safety generator, and if they generate revenue, well that's a side benefit."

Beck expressed his thanks for the low crime rates going into his tenure as chief of the LAPD. "The last time a chief of police had these raw numbers, his name was Bill Parker." Parker was chief of police from 1950 until 1966.

Beck noted that Los Angeles was the second safest big city in the United States, behind New York. He added, "We can do better, and we will do better."

Chief Beck said he was surprised at the positive reaction to the police department in different areas of Los Angeles.

"I think I'll always be compared to Chief Bratton," said Beck, "and the other 54 chiefs preceding us. And that's fine. I'm not the same as Bill Bratton. You know, I hope that I can be better in some ways." Beck said he felt he was the right leader for this time.

For the "Ask the Chief" segment, check out Patt Morrison's page.

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