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Charlie Beck Chosen By Villaragosa To Head LA Police

THOMAS WATKINS   11/ 3/09 06:54 PM ET   AP

Beck

LOS ANGELES — A respected Los Angeles Police Department veteran credited with cleaning up a devastating corruption scandal was picked by the mayor Tuesday to become the next police chief of the nation's second-largest city.

The selection of Deputy Chief Charlie Beck was widely endorsed by city officials, rank-and-file officers and activists, who cited his style of reform-minded management and community policing.

"He spent most of his career in some of the most challenging areas of our city, and in each and every case the communities were better off," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.

Beck, 56, went to work for the LAPD as a reserve officer in 1975 and rose through the ranks to become deputy chief three years ago. He currently is in charge of detectives, where he has overseen high-profile cases including the investigation of Michael Jackson's death.

He would become the city's 55th police chief if the City Council approves the mayor's selection, as expected.

Beck stands to inherit a department that underwent a dramatic turnaround under William Bratton, who unexpectedly left the post after seven years for a private sector job in New York.

Bratton presided over plunging crime rates, increased diversity among officers and heightened focus on counterterrorism. The department also enacted court-ordered reforms and saw the end of eight years of federal oversight brought about by abuse allegations.

In addition, Bratton helped heal relations with the black community after from decades of perceived police racism.

Beck, who was promoted by Bratton multiple times, said he aimed to make the reforms a lasting part of the department.

"It is so important that we drive those changes that we've made, that we take them and we put them into the DNA of this organization so that never again will it depend solely on the leader to make the difference," he said.

Beck acknowledged, however, that he faces challenging times, an apparent reference to the $400 million budget shortfall confronting the city. Beck must find a way to maintain morale as officers face a contract that offers no pay raises and less overtime.

The City Council has already implemented a two-month hiring freeze, and it's unclear how long its commitment will last to maintain the current number of LAPD officers.

In 2003, Bratton appointed Beck captain of the Rampart Division, which was struggling with fallout from a 1999 corruption scandal in its anti-gang unit.

"He stressed more involvement with the community so (police) were not seen as an occupying force," said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law who wrote a report about the scandal.

"From the perspective of having an internal candidate who has shown a desire for reform, he's an excellent choice," Chemerinsky said.

Although the Police Department made great strides under Bratton, further reforms are needed, Chemerinsky said, including reduced racial profiling and tracking disciplinary actions against officers.

Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber called Beck a consummate professional who is well-suited for the job of chief.

Beck comes from a law enforcement family. His father, George Beck, is a retired deputy chief. His daughter, Brandi Scimone, is a patrol officer in the Hollywood area; his son, Martin, is in the Police Academy; and his wife, Cindy Beck, is a retired sheriff's deputy.

"When you cut me, it bleeds blue," he said.

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Filed by Billy Silverman  |