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Bye Bye, Beck: LAPD Chief Retires

Los Angeles Police Department Charlie Beck speaks at a media briefing on Nov. 6, 2014 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
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Charlie Beck formally retires from the Los Angeles Police Department Wednesday, the same day he celebrates his 65th birthday.

But before we cut the cake, let's take a look back at the life and career of a man dubbed the "prince of the realm" by civil rights attorney Connie Rice.


Beck was almost born to be an LAPD cop. His father was a deputy chief and close friend of the controversial former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates, a regular dinner guest at the Becks.

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Charlie Beck joined the department in 1977, after abandoning his dream of becoming a professional motocross rider and graduating from Cal State Long Beach.

He was almost immediately thrust into the midst of the gang and drug wars raging in South L.A. By his own admission, he subscribed to Gates' philosophy that LAPD officers - outnumbered and often outgunned - had to come hard and fast at everyone.

It was a philosophy that led to some brutal tactics. Anti-gang CRASH units, of which Beck was a member, would plow through the doors of suspected drug houses with an armored car. A lot of African Americans -- especially in South L.A. -- came to see the cops as an occupying army.

Beck was a part of all that, though he said he never brutalized anyone.

By the time Beck became a sergeant in 1992, there were 2,589 murders in L.A. County, more than 1,000 in the city of L.A. alone. Last year, there were 282 people murdered in the city.

Over the years, Beck came to see that the department's alienation of communities meant fewer people cooperating with police as they tried to solve crimes. He embraced community policing and was praised by many for moving the department to a more progressive style of policing.

Critics argue he never fully let go of the old ways.


    • New body cameras: Beck embraced body cameras, and the LAPD became the largest department in the country to equip all of its officers with cameras.
    • De-escalation policy adoption: Beck backed the police commission's new de-escalation policy, approved in response to growing public concerns about police use of force.
    • Community partnerships: At the urging of civil rights attorney Connie Rice and others, Beck created the Community Safety Partnership program. It's one of the department's boldest efforts at a new style of policing.
    • Homeless policies: Some saw Beck as allowing officers to arrest too many homeless people for low level crimes, while others praised him for trying to be more compassionate toward the homeless.
    • Relief for unlicensed immigrant drivers: Beck eased the policy for unlicensed unauthorized immigrant drivers, giving them the chance to find someone to retrieve their cars, so they could avoid having their cars impounded for 30 days. The officers' union staunchly opposed the move, accusing him of "political correctness."
    • Preservation of Life Award: Beck created an award that recognizes officers who go above and beyond to avoid use of force. The police union denounced the idea as a danger to cops.
    • Controversial discipline: On several occasions, Beck was accused of playing favorites in meting out discipline. The biggest case involved his refusal to fire the son of a former deputy chief and friend, Mike Hillman.
    • The Brendan Glenn shooting: Beck recommended criminal charges against officer Clifford Proctor in the fatal shooting of Brendan Glenn, an unarmed homeless man in Venice. It's the only case in which Beck called for charges out of the more than 250 officer shootings during his tenure. The district attorney declined to file charges against Proctor.
    • The Ezell Ford shooting: Beck backed the officers who fatally shot Ezell Ford. The 25-year-old was killed in South L.A. just two days after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri. The L.A. Police Commission later found the actions of one officer to be out of policy and questioned whether officers should have stopped Ford in the first place.
    • The Christopher Dorner rampage: One of the most challenging moments of Beck's tenure came when former officer Dorner went on a deadly rampage that left four people dead. In Feb. 2013, Dorner led police on a 10-day manhunt that ended in his death in a fire in a Big Bear cabin. Track the entire episode in our Dorner timeline.
    • The cadet scandal: Under Beck, the LAPD much vaunted youth cadet program suffered a major blow when a group of cadets at the 77th Street Station were found to have been joy riding in police cars and stealing from the evidence locker room.

Have something to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.

And with that...

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Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck attends The University Of Southern California's Commencement Ceremony and receives his Doctorate Degree at Alumni Park at USC on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

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