Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck reached out to rank-and-file officers Tuesday and answered critics who questioned his recommendation to criminally charge an officer in a fatal on-duty shooting.
The chief stopped by a roll-call meeting Tuesday afternoon at the LAPD's Pacific division, where Officer Clifford Proctor was working last spring when he fatally shot Brendon Glenn, an unarmed homeless man. He also sent a video to officers across the department, mirroring a move he made this summer after a controversial decision by the city's Police Commission in the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford.
In the most recent video, which was reviewed by The Times, a somber Beck sighed as he explained why he believed Proctor should be charged.
"I don't do this lightly and in the vast majority of the time, as you well know, I stand up for you, regardless of public opinion," the chief told officers. "But in this case, I had to call it like I saw it. I had to do the right thing."
The outreach comes after Beck publicly revealed he had told Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey that he felt Proctor should be charged in Glenn's death. It marked the first time as chief that Beck has recommended an officer be charged in a deadly on-duty shooting.
Although some activists and residents welcomed Beck's announcement, police union officials have blasted the chief, accusing him of folding to political and public pressure.
The chief has recently drawn criticism from activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter for his handling of high-profile cases involving LAPD officers. Over the summer, Beck cleared two officers who fatally shot Ford, a mentally ill black man, in South L.A. The Police Commission later disagreed with the chief and found that one of the officers violated the LAPD's policy for using deadly force.
Jamie McBride, the director of the union that represents rank-and-file officers, said the chief's decision to make public his recommendation to charge Proctor was "nothing short of political grandstanding" and "selling out" to appeal to the department's critics. Officers, he said, have "lost any and all confidence" in his ability to lead the LAPD.
"He would be delusional to believe otherwise," McBride said in a statement.
Beck told The Times that he understood his decision was a "difficult discussion" for his department, but said he believed officers understood the "unusual circumstance" that the shooting presented.
"For [critics] to not recognize that is grandstanding on their part," he said of McBride's remarks.
"I always worry about that kind of thing," Beck said, when asked if he was concerned about officer morale. "I think there are ways for me to mitigate that, and one of those is to talk to cops and explain why I do what I do."
Glenn's killing May 5 generated fierce criticism of the department and came amid a heated national conversation about police officers and their use of force, particularly against African Americans. Glenn was black, as is Proctor.
Beck told The Times that LAPD investigators concluded Glenn was on his stomach, attempting to push himself off the ground, when Proctor stepped back and fired twice, hitting the 29-year-old in the back.
An autopsy report made public Tuesday confirmed Glenn died of two gunshot wounds. Both, the report said, were "immediately life-threatening."
Proctor's attorney has said his client saw Glenn reaching for his partner's gun. But Beck said that after reviewing video of the incident, witness accounts and other evidence, investigators concluded Glenn was not armed and was not trying to take either officer's weapon.
The chief declined to say what charges he thought should be filed against Proctor, but acknowledged an array of possibilities, including assault under the color of authority, manslaughter and murder. He stressed that it was ultimately up to Lacey to decide whether to file a case.
Los Angeles County prosecutors have not charged a law enforcement officer in an on-duty shooting in 15 years.
"My opinion is based on 40 years of police experience … and I think it's an opinion that the prosecutor needed to hear," Beck told reporters Tuesday. "Now how she acts is up to her."
The chief rejected allegations that his recommendation was a response to political or public pressure, saying he thought it was the "right thing to do."
"I don't take these decisions lightly.… I'm very protective of this organization, very paternal toward the members of this organization," he said. "But that support is not unconditional."
Glenn was shot shortly before midnight, after Proctor and his partner responded to a complaint that a homeless man was harassing customers outside a building near the famed Venice boardwalk.
The officers initially talked to the man — later identified as Glenn — and went back to their patrol car after he walked toward the boardwalk, the LAPD said. Soon afterward, police said, the officers saw Glenn struggling with a bouncer outside a nearby bar.
The officers approached Glenn and tried to detain him, the LAPD said, leading to a "physical altercation." At some point, Proctor opened fire.