Crime & Justice

LAPD Chief Beck’s successor? It could be a woman or a Latino

File: Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charles Beck (R) was chosen by then-mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Nov. 3, 2009. The mayor appoints the chief of police after considering recommendations from the five-member civilian Police Commission.
File: Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charles Beck (R) was chosen by then-mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Nov. 3, 2009. The mayor appoints the chief of police after considering recommendations from the five-member civilian Police Commission.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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There are a number of senior LAPD officials who could vie to replace retiring Chief Charlie Beck, including a female and a Latino. 

First Assistant Chief Michel Moore and Assistant Chiefs Beatrice Girmala and Jorge Villegas would all be considered strong contenders if they choose to seek the job. Beck announced Friday that he's stepping down on June 27.

Moore, the LAPD's second in command, was a finalist for the job in 2009, when Beck got the job. He recently was a finalist to be chief of police in Dallas. Moore has been part of the LAPD's top command staff since 2004, when former Chief Bill Bratton appointed him deputy chief.

Moore has held just about every top job at the LAPD and currently runs the department's day-to-day crime-fighting efforts as director of the Office of Operations.

In 2008, Moore described to KPCC participating in a dramatic rescue at the Sayre Fire in Sylmar, which destroyed the Oakridge Mobile Home Park. Two firefighters were unable to move an obese woman as flames bore down on them. Moore heard the call for help and raced to the home to help. "It took all of us to get her out of there," he said at the time. "I thought to myself, we will all be lucky to get out of here alive."

Girmala would be considered a strong contender because she was the captain of the Hollywood Division when Mayor Eric Garcetti was a councilman representing Hollywood, and the two are said to enjoy a strong relationship.

The mayor appoints the chief of police after considering recommendations from the five-member civilian Police Commission, whose members he also appoints. Under reforms approved by voters in 1992 after the Rodney King riots, the chief is limited to two five-year terms.

Girmala joined the LAPD in 1985 and rose to the rank of captain in 2007. Starting in 2013 – the same year Garcetti was elected – her promotions came faster. She was elevated to commander that year, deputy chief 19 months later and assistant chief 14 months after that.

In public, Girmala is soft spoken and unfailingly polite. She oversaw the department’s launch of a pilot drone program and during one debate, she patiently waited for each public speaker to air their concerns – including one man who believed that a drone was following him everywhere he went.

 In her current job as director of the Office Special Operations, Girmala oversees key department functions – including the Counter-Terrorism Special Operations Detective Bureau and the elite Metropolitan Division.

Assistant Chief Jorge Villegas would also be considered a leading candidate for chief, should he apply for the job. He’s been with the department for 26 years and currently directs the Office of Administrative Services.

Villegas touts as among his successes the creation of the Sylmar Juvenile Task Force, a collaboration of residents, government and nonprofit community groups to provide opportunities for youth in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, according to the department's website.

Anyone holding the rank of deputy chief could also be considered a strong candidate. Beck was a deputy chief when he got the top job. The current deputy chiefs are Robert Arcos, Justin Eisenberg, Horace Frank, Robert Green, Sean Malinowski, Debra McCarthy, Jon Peters, John Sherman and Phillip Tingirides.

Chief of the LAPD is considered one of the most coveted law enforcement jobs in the county, so there likely will be outside candidates as well.

The change in leadership will come at a time of increased scrutiny of police, particularly with regard to officers’ use of force. After an officer's fatal shooting of a young black man in Ferguson, Missouri triggered an intense national debate about police shootings, the Police Commission and Beck retrained officers on de-escalation techniques and supplied them with more non-lethal weapons, including Tasers.

Beck has sought to change the LAPD's culture by stepping up the department's investment in community policing. His retirement also comes as the Police Commission considers lifting his prohibition on the release of video from cameras worn by officers – one of the most contentious issues currently facing the department.

"The next chief ... has to understand where we came from," said Connie Rice, civil rights attorney and co-director of the Advancement Project. "You gotta know, what was that candidate for chief doing during [former Chief Bill] Bratton's time and during Beck's time? Were they waiting to go back to the old ways? Or were they really in the boat rolling with us?"

Social activist and LAPD critic Jasmyne Cannick urges the mayor to select a candidate "who is not your typical chief of police, who is not, you know, a white male over 50."