CHICAGO — Charlie Beck, the former head of the Los Angeles Police Department, has been named interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot made the announcement Friday, a little less than a day after Supt. Eddie Johnson said he would retire from the post. Johnson said he’ll stay on through the end of the year and help his replacement transition into the high-profile role of leading Chicago’s police department.
Lightfoot’s pick of Beck is unusual, as interim superintendents are usually pulled from the Chicago Police Department while officials look for a permanent superintendent.
But Lightfoot said Chicago was facing a “pivotal” moment in its history and Beck was the “perfect interim superintendent for what Chicago needs at this moment.”
Beck “has proven to be a singular leader with the strength and vision to lay the foundation for the change our city needs as we move forward,” Lightfoot said.
Beck said he has no plans to seek the post permanently, though he’ll use his time as interim superintendent to build on Johnson’s legacy.
Johnson is “not going anywhere” and will work with Beck during his time as interim superintendent, Beck said. The two are friends.
“This is the right time for an outsider to move things forward and to assist in the selection and identification of the next superintendent, which I think is of great importance in Chicago,” Beck said.
Beck, a California native, got his start as a cop in Los Angeles in 1977. He worked his way up to chief of police, the department’s top role, in 2009 and retired in June 2018.
Beck received criticism and praise during his tenure in Los Angeles: He led the department through budget cuts, made reforms after years of scandal in the agency and refused to help federal immigration authorities target undocumented people, which earned him accolades from some California politicians, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Beck said he’ll continue the Chicago Police Department’s policy of not working with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, saying police should not care what the status of a person is so long as that person is a Chicago resident or is working or visiting the city.
And Beck also saw the Los Angeles Police Department through the end of a consent decree — something the Chicago Police Department is now operating under.
But Beck has faced heavy criticism from anti-police violence activists. Black Lives Matter Los Angeles released an open letter to Chicago on Thursday, warning the city, “Take it from us, you don’t want him.”
In the letter, activists say the LAPD “became the most murderous … in the nation with 45 officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths in 2017.”
And the activists slam Beck for “cronyism” that cost taxpayers, “brazen ongoing disrespect for community members, especially black community members,” and for leading a department that targeted black drivers more frequently than white drivers.
Beck dismissed that criticism on Friday, saying the job “comes with detractors” and he would and has pushed for prosecution of “individuals who have broken the law while wearing the uniform.”
Beck also noted the South Bureau, a police district with a primarily black population, saw its murder clearance rate rise to be the highest in the city while he was chief.
“That shows a level of cooperation that is caused by trust,” said Beck, who got his start in the South Bureau. “What I think my legacy is in that community is making it safer and bringing together residents and the police as a partnership. And I stand by that.”
Beck will now lead Chicago’s police department while the Police Board looks for candidates for a permanent superintendent.
The Police Board said it will reach out to multiple stakeholders, including community members, as it seeks a new superintendent.
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