L.A.P.D.'s Top Cop Retires After Eight Years As Chief

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Saying it is time for fresh leadership of the agency he's called home for four decades, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck stunned colleagues today by announcing he will retire June 27, a year and a half before his term ends.

``Serving the citizens of Los Angeles for over 40 years has been the honor of a lifetime,'' Beck wrote in a statement on his Twitter account. ``Leading the men and women of the LAPD -- my family -- has been a privilege I never thought I'd be worth of. Today, I am announcing my retirement effective June 27th of this year.

``I plan on working every day until that day as the chief of the greatest law enforcement agency in the country,'' he said. ``I believe we are in the right place to support my decision, and give the next generation of LAPD leaders an opportunity to lead.

``The department is ready for fresh eyes to take our organization to even higher levels. Thank you Los Angeles for allowing me to serve your for all these years. God bless all of you, and God bless the Los Angeles Police Department.''

Beck publicly announced his retirement plans at a late-morning news conference with Mayor Eric Garcetti that was called to announce 2017 crime statistics. Beck's surprise announcement appeared to catch some members of his own command staff off-guard.

Invoking a journalism phrase, Garcetti quipped that Beck's announcement late in the news conference was a classic example of ``burying the lede.''

Garcetti said Beck ``is a man who has led with his heart. This is a man who has been forged in steel, whose family lives and breathes policing, and yet he is one of the most humanistic people I know.''

Beck said a number of reasons were behind his decision, including his belief that there is a strong field of candidates to replace him both internally and nationally, and the right leaders are in place to conduct the search.

``One of the secrets of bull riding is knowing when to get off the bull,'' Beck said. ``And I think this is the right time to get off the bull and put somebody else back on it. For the reasons I said. We have the right people to make a selection from, and the right people to make the selection, and those things are key and they don't link up that often.''

Beck also said his decision to stay in the job until the end of June will give the city time to choose a replacement without the need for an interim chief, which he said would not be healthy for the department.

Beck, who will turn 65 this year, has been chief of the LAPD since November 2009. His latest five-year appointment was set to end in November 2019.

Beck leaves with a mixed bag of results on crime. According to the statistics released Friday, violent crime rose for the fourth straight year in 2017, following 12 years of declines. But the homicide rate improved, down to 282 in 2017 from 294 in 2016, and down from 293 in 2010, Beck's first full year as chief. The previous three years all saw rises in homicides, going from 251 in 2013 to 260 in 2014 and 283 in 2015. Homicides peaked during his tenure in 2012 with 299.

Although there have been fluctuations, homicides have drastically fallen overall since the city's all-time high in 1992 of 1,092, and are down from 647 in 2002.

Beck noted that 2017 was the eighth year in a row the city experienced less than 300 homicides, a streak that had not been matched since the 1960s when the city had about 1 million fewer residents.

``Am I proud in how we've done on homicides? Absolutely,'' Beck said.

Beck joined the department as a reserve officer in March 1975. He became a full-time officer in March 1977. He was promoted to sergeant in 1984, to lieutenant in 1993, to captain in 1999 and commander in 2005. Be became a deputy chief in 2006, achieving the same rank his father attained at the agency.

As a deputy chief he oversaw the department's South Bureau, and later became the chief of detectives.

Beck has been under fire in recent years, with activist groups such as Black Lives Matter calling for his ouster in response to what they call a dramatic rise in police shootings of black suspects.

Activist Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles was among those who took to social media to hail his pending departure.

``Thank you to our partners who stood with us to make this happen,'' she wrote as she reposted a Black Lives Matter Twitter message cheering the announcement.

Weekly Los Angeles Police Commission meetings have often been forced to adjourn or go into recess over the past two years as activists shouted from the audience, typically directing their anger at the chief.

But Beck has held the support of Garcetti and most of the Police Commission, the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD.

``Under his leadership he has helped to make the LAPD the preeminent law enforcement agency in the world,'' commission member Steve Soboroff said. ``His focus on community policing has resulted in creating, maintaining and expanding the great relationships the department has with the diverse communities of Los Angeles. The many successes in programs that have been implemented under his leadership will serve as a testimony to his skill as a leader.''

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson thanked Beck for his service.

``In a career that has spanned more than four decades, he has exemplified the spirit of `to protect and to serve,''' Wesson said. ``He leaves the LAPD on a path of progress.''

Councilman Joe Buscaino quickly advocated for the department to be led by a woman.

``It's time for Los Angeles to have its first female chief of the LAPD,'' he wrote on his Twitter account. ``I urge the Police Commission to seek out qualified women candidates to lead the nation's second-largest police department.''

Photo: Getty Images

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