Mayor Lightfoot Names Former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Interim CPD Superintendent

WBBM Newsradio Staff
November 08, 2019 - 9:45 am
Mayor Lori Lightfoot named former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck the interim Chicago police superintendent.

WBBM Newsradio/Rob Hart

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO/AP) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot named former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck the interim Chicago police superintendent.

"I will be appointing, the man standing next to me, former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck as the interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department while we seek a permanent replacement," Mayor Lightfoot said.

The announcement comes the morning after Superintendent Eddie Johnson's retirement announcement Thursday.

"Over the course of the next few weeks, Superintendent Johnson and Chief Beck will build a plan for the exact timing of the hand over of duties, thereby providing a seamless transition of leadership at CPD. Over the course of a historic career of the LAPD that spanned over four decades, Chief Beck became a nationally recognized leader, who oversaw transformational community policing and operational management that resulted in historic reductions in crime and improved clearance rates. Chief Beck also led the LAPD through the end of its consent decree process, in its transition to a constitutional policing bureau, enabling its reforms to remain in place well after the decree was lifted - all of which makes him the perfect interim selection for what Chicago needs at this moment," Lightfoot said.

"Like Superintendent Johnson, Chief Beck began his career with the LAPD as a patrol officer, before steadily rising through the ranks and assuming the role of Chief of Police in 2009 - a role Chief Beck served faithfully until his retirement in 2018, following two full terms. During his tenure, Chief Beck led the reform of the Los Angeles Police Department that was rooted in principles of transparency and accountability, developing the well-earned national reputation with reformers and community leaders to combine the best aspects of traditional policing with community outreach initiatives. Case in point, in the fall of 2011, Chief Beck launched LAPD's community safety partnership that was specifically designed to forge strong relationships between members of the LAPD and high-risk residents in the city's public housing communities. In his first three years alone, violent crime in these communities fell by more than 50 percent, as did the number of arrests, while clearance rates rose over 81 percent...After only a few minutes with Chief Beck, you quickly understand both his deep care for the well-being of his fellow officers, as well as his interest in assuring they are conducting just policing in the areas that they serve."

Beck, 66, is the son of a Los Angeles Department Police Chief deputy chief. He served in the LAPD for 41 years and became chief in 2009, replacing William Bratton. Beck retired last year on his 65th birthday.

In his nine years as chief, Beck was known for mixing reforms with old-school policing. His tenure was marked with efforts to improve community relations, particularly amid the Black Lives Matter movement, and he equipped officers with body cameras. Like Johnson, he refused to help federal authorities in their push against illegal immigration.

But Beck clashed with the civilian police commission that oversees the department, as well as the district attorney's office and the police union. In an unprecedented move, he recommended that prosecutors charge an officer who shot and killed an unarmed homeless man in 2015, though the district attorney's office declined to file a case.

Beck comes to a city that often makes headlines for shootings and homicides, although those crimes have dropped since Johnson took over in 2016. Beck takes over a department that has dramatically expended the use of high-tech crime-fighting technology and implemented the largest rollout of police body cameras in the United States.

In Chicago, Beck will be a newcomer running a department where the rank-and-file has had rocky relationships with outsiders. Jody Weis, hired by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley after a long career with the FBI, was not a popular superintendent and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel's choice, Garry McCarthy was even less popular with the force than Weis.

Beck's appointment marks at least the second time Lightfoot has turned to Los Angeles to fill a key position. Previously, she named Susan Lee as the city's deputy mayor for public safety in the hopes that she could help reduce the gang violence that continues to plague the city. At the time of Lee's appointment, Lightfoot's office made clear the mayor was impressed with a 2007 article that Lee co-authored called, "A Call to Action: A case for a Comprehensive Solution to LA's Gang Violence Epidemic."

Lightfoot said Beck is a friend of Eddie Johnson and a friend to the city of Chicago.

"I am grateful Chief Beck has chosen to answer the call to service," Lightfoot said. "Both Superintendent Johnson and I look forward to working closely with him in the months and weeks ahead. He has been and will continue to be a great partner to the city of Chicago, and specifically to the men and women of the police department. I am grateful he has chosen to step up in this time of need and I know he and Superintendent Johnson will work together to have a seamless transition."

Beck will work side-by-side with Johnson until the end of the year, allowing time for the police board to conduct its search for a permanent replacement. 

Cheif Beck spoke at the conference expressing his excitement in the new role.

"First, I want to tell you how exicited I am to be able to work with Mayor Lightfoot and to continue the legacy of my close friend Eddie Johnson. The Mayor has impressed me since day one in conversations with her intimate knowledge of policing in Chicago, her understanding of constitutional policing, her belief that this department can be the change, that this department can be the glue that binds this city together," Beck said.

He touted his experience in improving the relationship between the police department and the city's African American community.  Beck said the homicide clearance rate in South Los Angeles was 80 percent during his final year in office, and he credited that to trust between citizens and police officers.

Beck insisted that the assignment is temporary and that he is not a candidate for the job on a full-time basis. 

"That is a question for Mrs. Beck and the answer is no," Beck said during a City Hall News Conference.

"I think it's important to the process that I be absolutely honest with Chicago and say that and stick to my word," Beck said.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson said he will always be grateful for Chief Beck's help throughout his time as the top cop. 

"I am really happy to see him here, because I know one thing, he's a man of integrity, he's a man that tries to do the best, he always tries to fall on the side of right, so I think we are in good shape," he said.

Johnson said while announcing his retirement, "it's time for someone else to pin these four stars to their shoulders. These stars, that sometimes feel like carrying the weight of the world. But I am confident that I leave CPD in a better place than when I became superintendent. I will help with the transition to the new superintendent however possible. CPD needs strong leadership. I want the next top cop to continue making the improvements in public safety and in the department that I love."

The announcement came shortly after Johnson said he was contemplating retirement.

"When my family and I went to London for the Bears game, that's the first vacation like that I've had since I became superintendent," Johnson said. "And I looked at my family and it made me realize how much of a sacrifice you make for your family when you take on positions like this."

Johnson, 59, said his departure would hinge on his desire to spend time with his family. He has worked for the Chicago Police Department for 31 years, and has been its leader since 2016. Johnson was named superintendent following the release of dashcam video of the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald. 

Chicago’s inspector general is investigating an incident last month in which police officers found Johnson asleep in his car. Later, he admitted to the mayor he had some drinks before that. Johnson attributed the incident to a switch in blood-pressure medicine and said he isn’t worried about the investigation.

Johnson, a veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was hired as top cop in 2016 under then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the wake of the Laquan McDonald scandal. He has had highly publicized health episodes, including a kidney transplant. His son was the donor.

Johnson's last day on the job will be December 31. Beck will remain in the job until the Police Board picks a permanent successor.  The board is accepting applications and says it will conduct a nationwide search.