CHICAGO — Former Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck will be named Chicago’s interim police superintendent, according to sources with knowledge of the decision.
The decision by Mayor Lori Lightfoot would be an unusual one for a job that is normally given to someone within the Chicago Police Department.
One of the sources said Lightfoot is supposed to meet with Beck on Friday and he will eventually begin shadowing outgoing police Superintendent Eddie Johnson until he retires at the end of the year.
Beck, 66, could temporarily lead the department for several months before Lightfoot names Johnson's permanent successor, the source said.
The Tribune, citing sources, reported earlier this week that Beck’s name was being floated around as a candidate for interim superintendent. Beck could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Beck was a 42-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department, serving about nine years as chief until his retirement in June 2018.
He served under William Bratton, a nationally recognized police leader. But Beck also was credited as a strong leader who supported reforms and community partnership.
Beck agreeing to take the job means Chicago will, at least temporarily, have guidance from a former head of a large-city police force who has helped lead a department through court-mandated reform but also launched programs that shifted enforcement away from strict reliance on aggressive, arrest-driven policing to more engagement with residents on creating safer communities.
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Beck worked his way up the ranks of the LAPD and saw some of its darkest days.
He was there at the time of the city’s 1992 riots — days of looting, violent crime and other civil unrest prompted largely by the acquittal of four LAPD officers on trial for the beating of Rodney King. According to the Los Angeles Times, the riots showed how the LAPD’s aggressive policing tactics fostered distrust with the community.
“I started trying to look at the job differently,” he said in the article. “I figured there had to be a way to be an effective police officer without alienating the people you were policing.”
Later that decade, the department grappled with a scandal in its Rampart Division that revealed officers physically abused suspects and tampered with evidence. A review showed the LAPD engaged in systematic excessive force, false arrests and unreasonable searches and seizures, leading to a consent decree in 2001.
“The whole decade of the ‘90s was devastating to the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department, and part of the reason it was devastating to the city was the Los Angeles Police Department,” he had also told the Times. “That really formed my beliefs in policing. I swore to myself that if I ever got in a position of significant authority, that I would never let this happen again.”
Two years later, Bratton made Beck captain of the division where he was eventually credited with helping rehabilitate Rampart’s troubled image, overseeing efforts to improve police-community relations in the neighborhoods it served.
With 4 million people, LA is more populous than Chicago but has a similar history of crime problems. Entrenched gangs have divided blocks and neighborhoods in both cities.