Former LAPD chief may step in as interim Chicago police superintendent

Officials in Los Angeles say Charlie Beck is working to finalize an agreement to temporarily take over the position at the end of the year

Mark Puente and Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — When Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck walked away from a 40-year police career in 2018, he said bull riders know when its time to get off the bull.

But it appears Beck could climb back on the bull. Rumors swirling across Chicago say Beck is the top contender to be the interim police superintendent as the city conducts a national search for a top cop.

Former LAPD chief Charlie Beck may take over the vacancy left by current Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson when he retires at the end of the year. (Photo/TNS)
Former LAPD chief Charlie Beck may take over the vacancy left by current Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson when he retires at the end of the year. (Photo/TNS)

Beck declined to comment, but several law enforcement sources close to him said he is working to finalize an agreement to temporarily lead the nation's second-largest municipal police force. He is expected to meet with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot later this week.

"Charlie Beck was the right man for the job when he was the chief in Los Angeles," Los Angeles Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff said Wednesday. "For that job in Chicago, he is the right person."

A police spokesman in Chicago declined to comment.

Beck, who followed his father's footsteps in joining the LAPD and forged a career that spanned four decades, stunned Los Angeles when he abruptly announced his retirement in 2018.

Beck said then that the time was right to pass the baton to another chief. He said he also wanted to spend more time with his family, particularly his young grandsons.

"One of the secrets of bull riding is knowing when to get off the bull," Beck said at the time. "And I think this is the right time to get off the bull."

Chicago's new interim leader would follow Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who is expected to announce his departure later this week. Johnson came under scrutiny in recent weeks as city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson continues to investigate an incident into police officers' finding Johnson asleep in his car last month.

The 31-year veteran later told the mayor he had a few drinks earlier that evening, according to the Chicago Tribune.

If Beck, 66, temporarily takes over the Chicago police, he would oversee about 4,000 more officers than he led in Los Angeles.

Similar to Los Angeles, Chicago has a large amount of gangs notorious for gun violence. As of last week, Chicago's 436 homicides was twice the toll in Los Angeles, records show.

In a effort to reduce gun violence, two former LAPD deputy chiefs, Sean Malinowski and Dennis Kato, are working as consultants in the Windy City. Both men retired from the LAPD this year.

Beck was sworn in as chief in 2009, an appointee of then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. It was the capstone of an unexpected career for Beck, who initially aspired to be a professional motocross racer before becoming a police officer.

Beck's deep family connections to the LAPD — two of his children are also on the force — have influenced his often-paternalistic view of the department and its officers.

"I am not a member of the LAPD. I am the LAPD," Beck told the Times in 2018. "It is my DNA."

Beck joined the department during a strikingly different era of policing, becoming an officer just a year before Daryl F. Gates — a name that for many is synonymous with the LAPD's aggressive, racially charged past — was sworn in as chief. Beck's career ended at a time when officers are expected to be guardians, not warriors, and police seek strong, trusting relationships with their communities.

Beck has witnessed some of the most defining moments in the LAPD's past: the 1992 riots that erupted after the officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted, the Rampart corruption scandal, and the federal consent decree that followed.

As Beck rose through the ranks, he made his mark by rehabilitating the scandal-plagued Rampart Division and forging better relationships with residents as he oversaw officers in South L.A.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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