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Former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck named interim top cop in Chicago

Former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck will lead the Chicago police force as the city continues searching for a permanent leader.
Former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, seen here at a June 2018 news conference, will lead the Chicago police force as the city continues searching for a permanent leader.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has been appointed as the interim police superintendent in Chicago, officials announced Friday.

Beck, who retired from the LAPD last year after a career that spanned four decades, will oversee the Chicago Police Department as the city continues searching for a permanent leader. Beck, 66, will oversee about 4,000 more officers in Chicago than he led in Los Angeles.

“Even though my stay here will be brief, I look forward to working with the residents and people who work in Chicago — meeting them, learning about their needs and making this a better place — because at my core, I believe that policing is a key, fundamental piece to making a successful city,” he said.

The announcement came during a morning news conference the day after Supt. Eddie Johnson announced his retirement as leader of the second-largest municipal police force in the country, a job he held for more than three years. Johnson came under scrutiny in recent weeks as city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson continues to investigate an incident in which police officers found Johnson asleep in his car last month.

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The 31-year veteran later told the mayor he had had a few drinks earlier that evening, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Beck praised Johnson’s efforts to tackle violence that has plagued the Windy City for years. Beck, who followed in his father’s footsteps in joining the LAPD, saw some of the department’s most tumultuous days.

He joined the agency during a strikingly different era of policing, becoming an officer just a year before Daryl F. Gates — a name that for many is synonymous with the LAPD’s aggressive, racially charged past — was sworn in as chief.

Former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck
Then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck jokes with an officer during his last formal inspection before his retirement on May 7, 2018.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Beck’s career ended at a time when officers are expected to be guardians, not warriors, and when police seek strong, trusting relationships with their communities. He has witnessed some of the most defining moments in the LAPD’s past: the 1992 riots that erupted after the officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted, the Rampart corruption scandal, and the federal consent decree that followed.

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As Beck rose through the ranks, he made his mark by rehabilitating the scandal-plagued Rampart Division and forging better relationships with residents as he oversaw officers in South L.A.

Beck was sworn in as LAPD chief in 2009, an appointee of then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. It was the capstone of an unexpected career for Beck, who initially aspired to be a professional motocross racer before becoming a police officer.

“Beck is the ideal person to shepherd the Chicago Police Department through this next period,” said LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who worked closely with Beck for years. “His vast experience with police reform, strategic approaches in reducing violent crime and ability to guide and inspire rank-and-file police officers will be invaluable as the Chicago Police Department searches for a permanent superintendent.”

Similar to Los Angeles, Chicago has large groups of gangs notorious for gun violence. As of last week, Chicago’s 436 homicides were twice the toll in Los Angeles, records show.

In an effort to reduce gun violence, two former LAPD deputy chiefs, Sean Malinowski and Dennis Kato, are working as consultants in Chicago. Both men retired from the LAPD this year.

“After only a few minutes with Chief Beck, you quickly understand both his deep care for the well-being of his fellow officers, as well as his interest in ensuring they are conducting just policing in the areas they serve,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.


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