THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Great Expectations of Charlie Beck

Shortly before Bill Bratton gave up his LAPD badge to take a far more lucrative job back east in the private sector, I stood with him in his Parker Center office downtown chatting about who would replace him.

While he wouldn't confirm then and there that his choice was Charlie Beck, he did assure me that he was so certain about who his successor would be, that he could place the name on a piece of paper in an envelope and that after the process of selecting a new chief was concluded, I would be able to open the envelope and see that the name he placed in it was, in fact, the person chosen by LA's mayor to head the department.

While I regret I didn't take him up on his offer at the time (frankly, I thought he was just toying with me and, if challenged, would not have elected to actually place his bet) I never doubted for a minute that, limited and half-hearted search to the contrary, Charlie Beck would be the new LAPD chief.

Now, the question is, what sort of chief will Charlie Beck be?

Beck is often referred to as a "cop's cop" -- but whether this is a good or bad thing is a subject of much conjecture around the department, City Hall and among former and current critics of the LAPD who are watching Beck with both hopeful and cautious eyes.

As one long time observer of the LAPD confided to me, "Beck came late to this whole reform business."

This same person feels confident that Beck is a "true believer," but is smart enough to want to wait a few months to see how quickly Beck moves to complete some of the reforms that were mandated by a federal consent decree -- now largely wrapped up, save for a few, but important, loose ends -- like computer tracking of bad cops!

Others I talked with tell me they admire Beck, the man, but wonder whether someone who is so steeped in LAPD culture -- his dad retired from the department and his kids work for it -- can ever really have the outsider's grasp of why, for so many years, things were so rotten within the department.

Reform aside, the next most pressing issue for the LAPD in coming years is lack of money.

Bratton was the quintessential "in your face" type dude, who, in later years, was rankling the feathers of various City Council members.

To what degree Charlie Beck will be willing to challenge the politicos, not to mention his civilian bosses at the Police Commission, is an open, though important question?

Already, some Council members, who praised Bill Bratton as a savior, are now saying quietly that Beck will be a breath of fresh air!

Beck has moved quickly to shape his management team in his own image. He elevated some; busted down others.

If Bratton failed at one thing, it was probably the inability in his seven years on the job to make sure his reforms sank down to the lowest levels of the department -- especially to the street trainers who get their hands on rookies after they leave the Academy and try to teach them "the way things really work on the streets, now that you are out of the classroom."

The "old" LAPD was militaristic to a fault. As one prominent LA lawyer told me, the idea of "community based policing" is anathema to this way of thinking. Respect on the streets is what it is all about, and that can be achieved, at times, with a heavy hand. While the Academy is real good at trying to instill Bill Bratton's new way of thinking into the young, impressionable minds of the cadets, the concern some whom I've talked to have, is that once out on patrol, some of the older, more "seasoned" officers act as a counterweight pushing the rookies back as far as possible into the "old" way of thinking.

For Charlie Beck to earn the solid-gold badge of reform, he must be able to complete Bratton's unfinished work and then go further still! Great expectations, for sure.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think, The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-Hour News Cycle." He has covered police and politics in L.A. since 1995.