LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Looking over his first year as police chief today, Charlie Beck said it had been a professionally rewarding but emotionally difficult 12 months.
“I am very very optimistic about this organization,” Beck said in a briefing in police headquarters attended by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
“Los Angeles is safer today, one year after the appointment of Charlie Beck …,” Villaraigosa said.
Beck said the job had taken an emotional toll on him, noting that he had two officers killed in Afghanistan, two killed in car wrecks and seven employees lost to cancer.
“So it’s just the drama of running a huge organization that’s engaged in a very dangerous business,” Beck said.
Homicides have fallen 10.1 percent so far this year, compared with the same period last year, and gang crimes are down 11.8 percent, he said.
Beck said he was proud his detectives broke the “Grim Sleeper” serial-killer case, and he hoped the homicide rate would continue to fall.
A backlog of unprocessed DNA rape kits has been decreased significantly, and he projected it would be eliminated in the first quarter of 2011, he said.
Beck, flanked by members of his command staff, also stressed the core value of what he called Constitutional policing.
“You can’t break the law to enforce the law,” he said.
The LAPD received 216 complaints or allegations of “biased policing” in 2009, but Beck said his officers made 195,000 arrests, issued 581,000 citations and impounded 75,000 vehicles that year.
Beck said he set up a Biased Policing Unit within Internal Affairs.
He recently bristled at a Justice Department scolding over two officers who were secretly recorded being dismissive of the department’s policy against racial or ethic profiling. When one officer was told other officers had been accused of pulling over drivers because of their race, he said “so what?” The other officer said he couldn’t do his job without profiling suspects.
Villaraigosa said the chief’s first year in office had reinforced his conviction that he had chosen the right person for the job.
“What distinguished Charlie Beck is: His whole life he just wanted to be a cop … doing his job and excelling at it,” Villaraigosa said.
Beck, 57, comes from a family of law enforcement professionals. His father retired from the LAPD as a deputy chief in 1980. His sister, Megan, was a detective, and wife Cindy is a former drug-dog handler. Two of his children, Brandi and Martin, are Los Angeles police officers.
Outside of work, he’s an avid motocross rider.