If Thursday night's public hearing in Canoga Park is any indicator, Chief Charlie Beck is carrying warm public support into his bid for another five years at the head of the Los Angeles Police Department. About 100 people turned out for the evening meeting of the Police Commission, and it was a boisterous, supportive crowd, frequently applauding and even cheering for the chief.
That's not to say that people didn't have their issues with the Police Department. Residents complained of transients and trash, young people openly smoking marijuana and, above all, traffic. Still, they recognized that crime is down; in that part of the West Valley, overall crime has fallen 12.8% over the same period last year, according to the area captain. That drew long, appreciative applause.
Of the dozen or so speakers who addressed the commission Thursday, almost all endorsed Beck's application for reappointment. One, a USC professor and native of Los Angeles, said Beck was "great…. In my lifetime, as a native Angeleno, Chief Beck is the best we've ever had." Beck, sitting just a few feet away, beamed.
Indeed, the only speaker to oppose Beck's appointment was an LAPD officer, a veteran defense representative who works to defend police officers accused of misconduct. He contended that some officers who are assigned to light duty because of injuries are being asked to work in patrol cars even though they are not able to perform full police work. Calling them "ghost cars" or "Caspers," the officer said they present the illusion that the patrol force is larger than it is. Commissioners took note of his complaint but did not respond (they are constrained from responding to items not on their agenda).
Still, that was the aberration in an evening largely devoted to thanking Beck and the LAPD for their efforts in the San Fernando Valley, particularly the West Valley.
"This process is very much about me and the commission hearing from you," Beck said at the outset. What he heard was clearly pleasing.
Steve Soboroff, president of the Police Commission, thanked residents profusely for turning out and sharing their impressions. The commission, he said, expects to decide on Beck's application at its Aug. 12 meeting.