Patt Morrison for September 12, 2011

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck on post-9/11 precautions, unlicensed drivers

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Chief Charlie Beck.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 have transformed the way the Los Angeles Police Department does business, Police Chief Charlie Beck told KPCC's Patt Morrison on Monday. The 10-year anniversary of the attacks meant even higher security measures, with police stationed at airports, the port and other high profile Los Angeles landmarks.

Beck said it's not only the police that are playing an important role in keeping Angelenos safe, it's also the public's own self awareness.

“Really the most important piece of keeping this city safe from terrorism is the public,” he said. “People are much more aware of their intimate surroundings than the police force will ever be.”

Beck said the police rely heavily on the public's willingness to cooperate with police and campaigns like “See something, Say something.” The LAPD has also improved lines of communication between police stations around the county.

Among other things, the chief said he's bracing himself for the shuffle of state prisoners sentenced to two years or less to the county control.

“Unfortunately [the state] didn't give the county the funding that it will take to do this, and because of that we expect to see more people that should be in state prison on the streets of Los Angeles,” he said. “That will probably be in the neighborhood of 4 to 5,000 extra people that should be in L.A. prisons in your neighborhoods. And that's just in the city of Los Angeles.”

Beck predicts the number for the county could be as high as 8,000 to 9,000 prisoners.

Beck has more than the number of prisoners on his mind. Beck spoke to Morrison about a bill currently on California Gov. Jerry Brown's desk that would have police across the state following LAPD's current protocol when it comes to unlicensed drivers and DUI checkpoints. The bill, AB 353, authored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, would make it illegal for officers to impound the cars of unlicensed drivers at D.U.I. checkpoints.

The chief believes the bill allows officers a better opportunity to focus their energies on the task at hand. This way, he said, “officers are spending less time worrying about the unlicensed and are worried about the people driving drunk." Critics of the bill believe that unlicensed drivers are in themselves danger to society, while supporters argue that many undocumented immigrants are safe drivers, though they may not have a license.

The current system, said Beck, allows some unscrupulous municipalities to abuse the DUI checkpoints as cash cows.

“If we're going to have an unlicensed driver checkpoint then we should say that's what were having," Beck said. He did not name any specific counties he believes are currently abusing the checkpoints.

Rounding out the hour Beck commented on the recent flooding of LAPD phone lines when rapper The Game tweeted the number of the police department as what was either a mistake, or a social media prank. The rapper sent a tweet to his followers asking them to call a number, which happened to be that of a police station in Compton, if they were interested in an internship.

Beck said new media represents new challenges and also opportunities. “We solve a lot of cases through social media. You'd be surprised what people put up,” he said.


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