Interim Top Cop Charlie Beck on the Future of Policing in Chicago


In his speech at the City Club on Monday, interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck referenced a restructuring plan for the force while drawing parallels between violent, police-involved incidents in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot had appointed Beck in November to temporarily replace then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson following his planned retirement at the end of 2019. But Beck had to take charge sooner than expected as Lightfoot abruptly fired Johnson in December for “ethical lapses” and allegedly lying about an incident in which he was found asleep behind the wheel of his car.

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Beck spent more than 40 years in the Los Angeles Police Department, serving as its police chief for nearly a decade, from November 2009 until his retirement in June 2018.

Beck said Monday he’d boost efforts for community policing in Chicago by increasing the number of “street outreach workers” embedded in city neighborhoods and expanding a fleet of what he calls “beat cops on steroids” who respond to non-emergency and quality-of-life calls in the community.

In 2000, the LAPD entered into a federal court-ordered civil rights consent decree with the Department of Justice. Beck supports a similar agreement facing the Chicago Police Department.

“The consent decree will not only make us more effective in what we do,” Beck said on Monday. “But compliance with the consent decree builds trust. When people see that you have complied with what is a court order for excellence, they understand the effort that you’ve put into it.”

The LAPD’s consent decree followed years of rampant gang violence in LA and public outrage over the brutal beating of Rodney King, an unarmed black man, by four white LAPD officers in 1991. Beck compared that incident to the fatal 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white.

“Although there are almost 20 years that separate the two cities’ separate events, they both resulted in the same thing,” Beck said Monday. “They resulted in a huge loss of trust and confidence by the community in their police departments and a perception that neither police department was effective in what it did.”

While some credit Beck with improving policing in LA – the number of homicides in the city remained below 300 for the past decade – Black Lives Matter LA wrote an open letter to Chicago after Beck’s appointment decrying “disrespect for community members, especially Black community members, who demanded accountability.”

Beck has ruled himself out as Johnson’s permanent replacement, but that search is ongoing – 23 applications for police superintendent were submitted prior to Monday’s deadline.

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia


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