Crime & Justice

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to retire after 40 years

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced Friday that he will retire on June 27.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced Friday that he will retire on June 27.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Listen to story

Extra Audio:
Download this story 3MB

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck announced his retirement after more than 40 years on the force.

After leading the department since 2009, Beck announced on Twitter that he’ll be stepping down on June 27. His current five-year term was set to expire in 2019.

"I plan on working every day until that day as the Chief of the greatest law enforcement agency in the country," he wrote.

Beck said it was the right time for a transition and praised leadership in the department. 

The LAPD is ready for "fresh eyes," he added, to take it "to even higher levels."

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti called Friday "a very emotional" day, telling the news conference where Beck announced his retirement that he has known the chief since Beck was a captain in the LAPD's Rampart Division. He said Beck "taught me a lot ... about what policing is about."

The chief "is forged in steel, but has led the LAPD with his heart," Garcetti said later in a statement. "Chief Beck embraced a steady path of reform at a tough moment for policing in America — even when there was criticism from both sides. He is one of the most honorable men to ever lead the LAPD, and he should be proud of what we've accomplished for the people of this city."

Thanking Beck for his service, L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson said in a statement that the chief "has exemplified the spirit of 'to protect and to serve.'" Beck "leaves the LAPD on a path of progress," he said.

Councilman Mitchell Englander said in a statement that the chief "has implemented reforms that have modernized the department, built trust and enhanced relationships with diverse communities, and made the LAPD a model department for cities, worldwide."

Beck joined the department in 1977. According to the LAPD's website, he was promoted to Sergeant in June 1984, to Lieutenant in April 1993, to Captain in July 1999, and to Commander in April 2005.  In August 2006, he achieved the rank of Deputy Chief, the same rank his father, a retired LAPD officer, had attained.

Beck was hired as chief after former Chief Bill Bratton left the department. (Michael Downing, who retired last year from the LAPD after leading the counterterrorism unit, led the department on an interim basis between the two.)

Beck was widely considered the best candidate to continue Bratton's reform legacy, said Connie Rice, civil rights attorney and co-director of the Advancement Project.

"We were just exiting a consent decree process and it was important to get a chief who understood the mission of culture change and the change that had to happen between LAPD and poor communities," Rice said. "You have to know the old culture, have gone through your own changes personally, and adopted a new way of thinking about policing." 

Beck, she said, was that kind of change agent. 

His tenure has seen investment in and emphasis on community policing, including adding community patrol officers to some of L.A.'s housing projects through the Community Safety Partnership Program. Beck also supported outfitting LAPD officers with body cameras, making the LAPD one of the first and largest departments to do so. 

"There are a million things that he oversaw and expanded," said L.A. Police Commission President Steve Soboroff. "Reforms have continued at warp speed."

When he first spoke to Beck about his plans to retire, Soboroff said, he was disappointed the chief was planning to leave before the end of his term.

"Here's the question," he said: "Is L.A. a safer place than it was eight years ago? Is the police department better than it was eight years ago? Yes."

Beck decided to step down in June in part because there are solid internal and external candidates to replace him, and LAPD's command staff "are being picked off to be chiefs of different departments almost weekly,” said Soboroff.

Beck has also overseen his share of scandals, said Jasmyne Cannick, a social activist and LAPD critic. 

In 2015, an L.A. Times investigation revealed the department was not properly categorizing serious assaults, which skewed crime statistics. There were high-profile officer-involved shootings on Skid Row, in South Los Angeles and in Venice during Beck's tenure. 

Most recently, the department's cadet program came under fire after a joy ride revealed serious accusations of sexual assault of an underage girl by an officer associated with the program. 

Cannick believes the chief was not as in touch with the communities he served as he should have been, and was too lax in his oversight of command staff.

"So I think his exiting is a good thing,” she said. “I think it's about time, and I think it paves the way for the department to make some much-needed changes.”

The police commission will be tasked with whittling down potential candidates to three finalists, who will be presented to Mayor Eric Garcetti.