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Ask the Chief as LAPD’s top cop Charlie Beck takes the microphone




Chief Charlie Beck.
Chief Charlie Beck.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told KPCC’s Patt Morrison that the wounded officer’s doctors had predicted “a 100 percent recovery,” and that he had given the Chief a cheerful “thumbs-up” as he was being wheeled out of the operating room. However, the seven-year police veteran will have to spend months in physical therapy before returning to work.

The shooting occurred when the officer and his partner attempted to stop two pedestrians whom they suspected of involvement in auto theft, explained Beck. Before the officers emerged completely from their squad car, the pedestrians opened fire and bombarded the vehicle with more than a dozen bullets.

The wounded officer’s bullet-proof vest protected his chest from the gunfire, but he sustained a serious gunshot wound to the wrist. His partner returned fire and, per Beck, “eliminated the threat.”

Beck credited more than the bulletproof vest for the officer's survival, "whether or not there was a round that hit his chest, that's absolute speculation at this point, but certainly his ability and his partner's ability to return fire made a big difference."

Though the LAPD has taken one man into custody, Beck warned that the police are still seeking another suspect. Not all of the incident’s details are known because for medical reasons the police have not yet interviewed the wounded officer. A handgun was also recovered at the scene and is is being tested to determine if it was used in the firing.

The incident was just one in a string of attacks on police in the last week. An officer responding to a radio call in Wilmington last night was injured by a man wielding a sharp object, and officers were shot at while arresting a double-murder suspect near a supermarket in Encino on Sunday.

In fact, violent assaults against LAPD increased by 29 percent over last year, a number that totals upwards of 125 violent assaults. Beck noted that these attacks were not trivial signs of resistance to arrest, but instead serious attempts to inflict bodily injury on officers.

“There is nothing more traumatic in our business than to come under fire in such an unexpected way,” said Beck.

The frequency of police attacks has come as a surprise to the LAPD, which has overseen significant declines in most types of crime over the last year. As of August 20th, the city’s rates of homicide were down by 8 percent, rape by 17 percent, robbery by percent, and assault by 6 percent. Gang crime, what Beck calls the bain of his existence, has declined by 15.5 percent, while violent crime as a whole had decreased by 8 percent. Despite the drop in overall crime, Beck said computer-based crimes and identity theft are on a rise as more and more information is available on the internet.

Beck called the uptick in cop shootings a“million dollar question,” but pointed to the force’s more frequent encounters with people intent on perpetrating violent crime as a possible source of the rising conflict. He said these encounters are up due to improved crime modeling and data analysis. "We don't spread police resources like paint, we put them where the crime is," he said.

Attacks on police officers have increased nationwide, but Beck said what's most alarming is the 40 percent increase of “ambush-style” attacks on police officers.

Beck warned that that could change if thousands of convicted criminals are released from state prison in the fall to comply with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on California prisons.

If inmates are released from overcrowded prisons beginning October 1st, the city of Los Angeles could see an influx of 4,000 criminals, while L.A. County could expect nearly 8,000 convicts to walk on the streets. The realignment in responsibilities for these inmates between city, county and state officials may prove difficult. Chief Beck argued that crime rates could increase if police stations are paralyzed in the resulting administrative confusion.

Guest:

Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Department