For months, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has grappled with fighting a rise in crime across the city.
As the chief spoke about the crime increase at news conferences and gave weekly updates to police commissioners, the union that represents rank-and-file officers largely stayed out of the public discussion.
That changed Wednesday, when union officials called a rare news conference of their own and blasted Beck for his response to the rise in crime. They also sent a letter to Councilman Mitch Englander, asking him to convene public hearings to determine how officers could be better deployed across the city to drive down crime.
“Chief Beck has told you and the residents of Los Angeles that there is nothing to worry about,” the letter read. “He's not telling the truth.”
The move comes a week after Beck publicly recommended an officer be criminally charged in a fatal on-duty shooting, drawing harsh criticism from the union. The timing of the union’s announcement Wednesday raised eyebrows among some LAPD officials, including Beck.
“I find it very convenient that even though I have been talking about crime increases every week at the Police Commission and in many, many press conferences all year, that the union would find now would be the time to try to point this out,” Beck said. “I do find it odd and coincidental.”
Craig Lally, the union's president, said Wednesday’s announcement “has nothing to do with the shooting.” “We have a difference of opinion,” Lally said, “but that's a whole other issue.”
Union officials have long complained that there are too few officers patrolling the city's streets. On Wednesday, they pointed to two key initiatives they said were taking more officers away from patrol duties for office work or specialized assignments.
The first, they said, was last year's expansion of the Metropolitan Division, an elite group of officers tasked with suppressing crime in hot spots across the city. The second comes with the implementation of the highly touted body camera program, which officials have said could take as many as 122 officers to implement and monitor.
Jamie McBride, who sits on the union's board of directors, said Beck was mismanaging the department's resources.
“You can only take so many people out of patrol before there's nobody in patrol,” he said.
Beck said patrol officers served a “very important function” in the LAPD, but weren't the department's sole way to combat crime.
After years of falling crime, LAPD officials struggled in 2015 to reduce the uptick, launching more Metro officers to high-crime areas and strengthening gang outreach and domestic violence reduction efforts. Although Beck and other top brass said they saw some progress in recent months, year-end statistics showed overall crime was at its highest point since 2009.
Beck again defended the department's crime-fighting strategies Wednesday, saying they were “coming to fruition.” The chief also noted that although crime had increased in 2015, the city was still far safer than it was decades ago.
But Englander, a reserve LAPD officer who heads the council's Public Safety Committee, told The Times that he was “deeply concerned” by the crime increase. Englander said he would ask the City Council on Friday to schedule a special meeting for his committee to learn more from the LAPD and the union.
“I want to hear directly from the chief and the department on what's working and what's not,” Englander said. “We need to move on this very quickly.”
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