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Union official: LAPD chief lost support of officers after saying one should be charged

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck asked the Police Commission to delay its review of the fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man while the district attorney’s office evaluates whether to charge the officer who opened fire.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles police union official blasted LAPD Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday, accusing him of “political grandstanding” and “selling out” to appease critics by publicly recommending that an officer be criminally charged in a fatal on-duty shooting.

Jamie McBride, the director of the union that represents the LAPD’s rank-and-file, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that officers have “lost any and all confidence in Beck’s ability to successfully lead this organization.”

“He would be delusional to believe otherwise," McBride said.

McBride’s remarks came as Beck attended a roll-call meeting with officers at the LAPD’s Pacific division, where the fatal shooting occurred last spring.

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In response, 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 them to not recognize that is grandstanding on their part,” he said of McBride’s comment.

Beck said he had reached out to officers in an attempt to explain the thought that went into his decision.

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“I always worry about that kind of thing,” Beck said, when asked if he was worried 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.”

The chief sent a video to his officers this week regarding his recommendation, mirroring a move he made this summer after the Police Commission faulted an officer in another controversial case: the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford.

In his most recent message, which was viewed by The Times, Beck was somber as he looked into the camera and sighed as he revealed his decision. 

“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,” Beck told his officers. “But in this case, I had to call it like I saw it. I had to do the right thing.”

The remarks came a day after the Times reported that Beck had recommended that Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s office charge the officer who fatally shot Brendon Glenn, an unarmed homeless man, last spring in Venice.

It was the first time as chief that Beck recommended an officer be charged in a fatal on-duty shooting. 

Beck told The Times that LAPD investigators concluded Glenn was on his stomach, attempting to push himself off the ground, when Officer Clifford Proctor stepped back and fired twice, hitting the 29-year-old in the back.

An autopsy report made public Tuesday confirmed Glenn was shot in his back and died of the gunshot wounds. Both gunshots, the report said, were “immediately life-threatening.”

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After reviewing video, witness accounts and other evidence, investigators determined Glenn was not trying to take either Proctor’s gun or his partner’s weapon at the time of the shooting, Beck said. Proctor’s partner also told investigators he did not know why the officer opened fire, Beck said.

Beck declined to say what charges he thought should be filed against Proctor, but acknowledged a range of possibilities, from assault under the color of authority to manslaughter or murder. He stressed that it was ultimately up to Lacey to decide whether to file a case.

L.A. County prosecutors have not charged a law enforcement officer for an on-duty shooting in 15 years.

The May 5 shooting in Venice generated fierce criticism of the LAPD 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.

Proctor’s attorney, Larry Hanna, accused LAPD brass of making a “political decision” by publicly recommending charges.

Hanna defended his client’s decision to shoot, saying Proctor saw Glenn going for his partner’s gun -- even if his partner may not have realized it. Although a security camera captured the events leading up to the shooting, Hanna said, both of Glenn’s hands could not be seen for the entirety of the recording.

Beck said Tuesday that the evidence did not support Hanna’s account of the shooting and rejected accusations that he made his recommendation based on politics or public opinion, saying he felt it was the “right thing to do.”

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.

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