Police Commission began public evaluation process on Wednesday in Westchester

By Gary Walker

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck’s campaign for a second five-year term as the city’s top cop began Wednesday during a special meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission at the Westchester Senior Center.

Beck announced his desire for another term in an April letter to the commission, arguing that crime has gone down in the city at a time when funding for the LAPD has been cut back.

While the chief of police is appointed by the mayor, reappointment of a chief is subject to approvals by the commission and the City Council.

The commission has asked the public to weigh in on the job Beck has done.

“We’re hoping to hear things that we haven’t considered before. We hoping to hear things that maybe go deeper than we’ve thought about,” said L.A. Police Commission President Steve Soboroff, who previously led efforts to develop Playa Vista.

Despite the invitation, fewer than 30 members of the public attended the meeting.

Neighborhood Council of Westchester – Playa President Cyndi Hench, who has helped organize neighborhood watch groups throughout Westchester, said community members are supportive of the police but have raised concerns about response times.

“In Westchester-Playa, our community enjoys a great relationship with our officers and with the command at Pacific [Division, which patrols Playa del Rey, Venice, Westchester, Del Rey, Mar Vista and Playa Vista], and we’re very fortunate for that. But with communications providing unsatisfactory customer service, it kind of blows everything up and the perception in the community is not good,” said Hench, a Westchester resident.

“What is perceived as not caring or unresponsive is often reported to me. Things could be worse, but things could be a lot better. I don’t know if the delayed response time is due to budget constraints or from LAPD leadership.”

Westchester residents have complained of increasing crime in their neighborhoods over the last several months, but the Los Angeles Times’ “Mapping L.A.” projects lists only a pair of violent crimes and 37 property crimes over the last several months.

“We can always do better,” Beck told The Argonaut after the meeting. “We have tremendous issues that have come about from the budget crisis and reduced staffing levels in our 911 centers and in our jails. Rebuilding the Los Angeles Police Dept. is really important to me.”

Beck also said he wants to keep up positive momentum within the department.

“I also want to make sure that all the tenets of constitutional policing and community policing stay intact, and that we push all those beliefs and all that philosophy down to the rank and file and not just have it be the domain of management. This is something that we’ve been doing for the last five years and I want to keep doing that,” Beck said.

Although the Westchester meeting was the first of several public comment opportunities, Soboroff said Beck has been in previous discussions with the commission and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“One thing that we’ve asked [Beck] is ‘What have you done that’s great? And what could you do better?’” Soboroff said.

A spokeswoman for Garcetti declined to comment, but the mayor has spoken highly of Beck.

“He’s been a super chief,” Garcetti said during a recent broadcast of the NBC Sunday morning public affairs show “News Conference.” “I trust my managers and they are going to make different decisions at different points,”

Both Garcetti and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin have pushed for technology upgrades to improve departmental operations.

“One of the things that I would like to discuss is the modernization of technology at LAPD and how they will manages their resources in the future,” Bonin said. “My overall impression of Chief Beck is very positive. He has done an incredible job transitioning the department from the [former LAPD Chief] Bill Bratton era and he is very popular with the rank and file. I think his chances for reappointment are in the high-90 percentile.”

“We are very desirous of increasing our ability with technology,” Beck said. “It’s been very difficult because of the budget. But now, because things are starting to move forward, we have budgeting for in-car video for another half of the city, which is really important in changing the way that we do some of our reporting.”

Send comments on Beck’s performance and bid for reappointment to reappointment@lapd.lacity.org