Signed memo raises questions about LAPD chief’s involvement in purchase of daughter’s horse

Days before the police commission votes on his reappointment, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck faces questions about the acquisition by the department of his daughter's horse.
Days before the police commission votes on his reappointment, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck faces questions about the acquisition by the department of his daughter's horse.
Reed Saxon/AP

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Update: Beck now acknowledges he signed off on daughter's horse deal

When LAPD Chief Charlie Beck faced reporters Tuesday to talk about the controversy surrounding the department’s acquisition of his daughter’s horse, he said he had no involvement in the purchase.

“That paperwork steered completely around me,” Beck told reporters gathered around him at police headquarters. “I kept it in Chief Moore’s shop,” said Beck, referring to Assistant Chief Michael Moore.

Now, the Los Angeles Times has published an LAPD memo that includes Becks’ signature, approving acceptance of the horse as a donation from the Police Foundation.  The Foundation used $6,000 in private money to purchase the horse from the chief’s daughter, Brandi Pearson, for use in the department's mounted unit. Pearson is an LAPD officer who is assigned to the mounted unit.

“The document would appear to be inconsistent with what he said,” Police Commission member Robert Saltzman said. “I was surprised and troubled by the document.”

“I think when there is an appearance of conflict of interest, we should bend over backwards to make sure the transaction is handled by others,” Saltzman added.

Saltzman is one of five members of the civilian police commission. The panel is scheduled to vote on Beck's reappointment to a second five-year term next week.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said he was comfortable with the purchase of Pearson's horse for the LAPD. But Soboroff has concerns with how Beck handled it. 

"The issue is he said 'I didn't have anything to do with it', and then there's a piece of paper that he signed that says he was involved," Soboroff said. "He needs to explain that."

Still, the controversy has not prompted Soboroff to reverse his longtime support of Beck. "I do lean towards his reappointment," Soboroff said.

An LAPD spokesman said Beck had no involvement in the department’s process of evaluating and purchasing the horse.

“Only at the very end did he sign off on it,” said Commander Andrew Smith. Smith told KPCC he didn't know whether Beck knew he was signing off on the acquisition of his daughter's horse. “The chief signs hundreds of documents,” Smith said.

Beck was out of town on vacation and unavailable for comment, according to Smith.

A statement from a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who appoints the police commission, expressed little concern over the controversy.

“All allegations against the Chief are investigated and reviewed by the Inspector General and then presented to the Police Commission.  This allegation is no different.  The commission will review it, as they do with all complaints about the Chief's conduct,” the statement read.

It also reiterated the mayor’s support for Beck: “he supports Chief Beck who has done a great job in making this a safer city and in strengthening ties between the LAPD and the community.”

Saltzman said he asked the inspector general to provide his report on the horse before the police commission's scheduled Tuesday vote on Beck’s reappointment “so its not left hanging over us.”