Upcoming Interim Supt. Beck spends Saturday with mayor, CPD leadership

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CHICAGO — Upcoming CPD Interim Supt. Charlie Beck didn't waste time learning more about the Chicago Police Department on Saturday.

Beck spent Saturday with Mayor Lightfoot and Supt. Eddie Johnson at the 7th District Headquarters to meet more city leaders and job shadow.

Chicago's mayor on Friday named former Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck to serve as Chicago's interim police superintendent, a day after the city's top police officer announced he's retiring.

Beck, 66, will serve while the Chicago Police Board conducts a search for Johnson's permanent replacement, which could take several months. The son of a Los Angeles Department Police Chief deputy chief, Beck spent more than 40 years with the police force replacing William Bratton as chief in 2009. He retired last year on his 65th birthday.

Johnson announced Thursday that he was retiring as the city’s top cop, after more than three years as superintendent and more than 30 years with the department. Lightfoot said he’d agreed to serve through the end of 2019.

Saturday, Beck toured the 7th's district's SDSC, a strategic decision support center, which he helped bring online in Chicago.

Mayor Lightfoot said she chose Beck as an interim superintendent because of his existing relationship with Eddie Johnson, as well as his track record improving neighborhoods in L.A.

"In Watts, very tough community... working together with community brought violent crime down there 50% and increased the homicide clearance rate to 81%," Mayor Lightfoot said.

Reaction from faith leaders and activists

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Beck, Lightfoot and Johnson met with faith leaders from the city’s South and West sides Friday night.

Approximately two dozen pastors attended the informal, private meeting that was closed to the press.

Many of the faith leaders in attendance said they were impressed with what they heard and said the meeting was an important first step. They said building trust and cooperation will take some time.

That’s especially true for the Reverend Marvin Hunter, the great-uncle of Laquan McDonald who was shot and killed by police officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014.

“In the room, it seemed like there was an overwhelming theme of blaming the people for the violence and not wanting to deal with the reality of police corruption,” Hunter said.

Reverend Ira Acree from Greater St John Bible Church called Lightfoot’s choice of Beck a “breath of fresh air.”

“It gave me the signal that she really wants to clean this department up from top to bottom,” he said.

The mayor’s office said entire weekend of meetings are on tap for Beck before he returns to Los Angles Sunday.

Chicago activist Ja'Mal Green said he opposes Beck's appointment.

"I've been notified by many activists in Los Angeles," he said. "Charlie Beck doesn't know what's going on. He doesn't know the people on the ground."

Beck has pointed out that he spent his entire career working in South Bureau, a predominately African American community.

Lightfoot said she's sure she'll hear from activists in Chicago about Beck, but she believes he's the right guy for now.

Beck's Background

In his nine years as chief, Beck gained was known for mixing reforms with old-school policing. His tenure was marked with efforts to improve community relations, particularly amid the Black Lives Matter movement, and he equipped officers with body cameras. Like Johnson, he refused to help federal authorities in their push against illegal immigration.

But Beck clashed with the civilian police commission that oversees the department, as well as the district attorney's office and the police union. In an unprecedented move, he recommended that prosecutors charge an officer who shot and killed an unarmed homeless man in 2015, though the district attorney's office declined to file a case.

Beck is not without controversy. Black Lives Matter LA posted an open letter about their complaints regarding the LAPD under Beck's command. They point to officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths and black motorists being targeted.

Anger led to an incident in May 2018 when a women threw ashes at Beck during a police commission meeting. She was the aunt of a woman who died in police custody.

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