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It had all the makings of another turbulent moment for the Los Angeles Police Department, an agency once notorious for an “L.A. Confidential” style of heavy-handed policing, hostile relations with minorities and corruption. Two months after triumphantly announcing the arrest of a suspect in a brutal beating at Dodger Stadium, the police admitted that they had arrested the wrong man, and charged two other people with the crime.
But unlike other potentially explosive episodes that have rocked this department over the decades, there were no indignant denials or attacks on critics. Instead, the police chief, Charlie Beck, wrote an op-ed article in The Los Angeles Times explaining what had gone wrong and expressing regret at some of his own public comments. “We can do much better,” Chief Beck wrote.
The condition of the Los Angeles police officer who was shot early Monday during a domestic violence call was improving Tuesday.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said doctors have upgraded Officer Steven Jenkins from critical to serious condition. Jenkins, a 22-year veteran of the department and a member of the LAPD’s canine unit, was shot in the face and shoulder as he and other officers approached a house in the 13600 block of Dronfield Avenue in Sylmar about 2:45 a.m.
Police were summoned to the neighborhood by a woman who called about 10:30 Sunday night to report that her husband had beaten her. Responding firefighters treated the woman for cuts and bruises at a neighbor’s house.
Officers went to the woman’s house and tried to contact her husband, 53-year-old Sergio O. Salazar, who was thought to be inside. He didn’t respond and then opened fire on a team of canine handlers that included Jenkins.
Seventeen Los Angeles police officers, including those involved in a 2008 hostage rescue attempt in which a SWAT officer was killed, received the department’s highest honor for bravery in the line of duty Thursday.
The Medal of Valor is bestowed on a handful of the LAPD’s nearly 10,000 officers each year for “bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of police service.”
At a luncheon ceremony, Chief Charlie Beck spoke of the importance of recognizing such acts of bravery. “There is a social contract we make with police officers…and that social contract goes like this: If you are willing to risk your life for me, if you are willing to lay down your life in support of me and my family, then I will honor you and I will also stand behind you.”
A new breed of seminar hosted by Spartanburg County authorities gave about 25 law enforcement officers and their dogs scenario-based training Thursday.
Instead of spreadsheets and speeches, the seminar focused on preparing for potentially hazardous situations.
Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Steve Henderson organized the agency’s first K-9 Deployment Seminar and Training session, which he hopes will become an annual event.
Kevin Beck, owner of Enforcement K-9 in Wilmington, N.C., worked with deputies to organize practice situations that ranged from an armed robbery with a barricaded subject to responding to a burglary alarm to practice deploying the dogs to help remove unwilling suspects from vehicles.
A three-decade veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who is credited with cleaning up the image of the scandal-plagued Rampart Division was selected by the mayor Tuesday to head the police force.
Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said he was humbled that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa selected him to succeed William Bratton, who decreased crime and improved race relations during his seven-year tenure.
Beck would become the city’s 55th police chief if the City Council approves the mayor’s selection, as expected.
“Chief Bratton did a tremendous job of building a team,” Beck said. “My team is not the same as his, but it is made of the same cloth, and it will achieve the same results.”
Beck began his LAPD career as a reserve officer in 1975 and rose through the ranks to become deputy chief three years ago. He currently is in charge of detectives.
Bratton left the department for a private consulting job three years before the expiration of his second term. He indicated he wanted a department insider to replace him. All three finalists fit the bill: Beck, First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell and Deputy Chief Michel Moore.
Beck could be expected to continue two of Bratton’s priorities: community outreach and a crackdown on gangs.
“Chief Beck has been the leader within the LAPD in changing our approach to the way we address gangs and youth violence,” Villaraigosa said. “He understands that you can’t solve the gang problem just by locking up every kid, that we must use a comprehensive approach that includes tough enforcement while getting at the root causes that drive youths to gangs in the first place.”
However, Beck will face a challenge maintaining morale since the city’s financial crisis means officers are facing a contract that offers no pay raises.
In 2003, Bratton appointed Beck captain of the Rampart Division, which was struggling with fallout from a 1999 scandal that uncovered corruption in its anti-gang unit.
Observers credited him with burnishing the division’s image, in part by pushing community outreach efforts.
Beck’s appointment was welcomed by the police officers union.
Beck is “a consummate professional” who is well-suited for the job, Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber said in a statement. “We’re confident that Chief Beck has the leadership skills to uphold the LAPD’s position as one of the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies.”
Beck comes from a law enforcement family. His father, George Beck, is a retired deputy chief. His daughter, Brandi Scimone, is a patrol officer in the Hollywood area; his son, Martin, is in the Police Academy; and his wife, Cindy Beck is a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.
During Bratton’s tenure, the LAPD hired more officers; got a new headquarters; enacted court-ordered reforms and saw the end of eight years of federal oversight, and at least partially healed a breach with the city’s black community stemming from decades of perceived police racism.
The force has increased by more than 800 officers since 2002 to its highest-ever level of about 10,000.
At first glance, the three finalists to become the next chief of the Los Angeles Police Department appear to be cut from the same cloth.
All are middle-aged white men. They are dyed-in-the-wool LAPD cops who came into the department as young men about 30 years ago and took on similar assignments as they rose through the ranks.
Below the surface, however, the similarities give way to distinct differences in leadership, personality and career paths that Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck and Deputy Chief Michel Moore followed to arrive at this decisive point.
Interviews by The Times with the three men, as well as supporters, critics and neutral observers, reveal McDonnell as the LAPD’s gracious, well-liked ambassador who has spent the last several years with an eye on the chief’s job from his place in the upper reaches of the department as its second in command. Moore is an intense, hard-charging commander who leads with a firm hand, while diligently — some say obsessively — running the department’s operations in the San Fernando Valley. Beck, laid-back and seemingly unflappable, has surged from the LAPD’s middle ranks into the role of reformer under outgoing Chief William J. Bratton.
“One of the strengths that they all share is that they are their own person,” Bratton said. “They have their own ideas.”
With the finalists selected earlier this week and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expected to choose the next chief as early as Monday, department observers have not had a chance to do more than sketch comparisons of the three. In trying to make his decision, the mayor decided Friday evening to call back all three candidates for more interviews this weekend.
Beck, 56, joined the LAPD in 1977. McDonnell, 50, and Moore, 49, signed up four years later. All three spent the first several years of their careers as patrol officers in various parts of the city and, relatively quickly, made the jump to sergeant and took on entry-level supervisor roles. With the city in the grips of the crack cocaine epidemic in the mid-1980s and an understaffed police force failing to keep up with soaring crime rates, it was a rough, eye-opening period to come of age as a young cop.
Each cited experiences during this time that made a deep impression. Within five years on the job, Moore twice found himself in confrontations with armed men and shot them both, killing one. Shortly after the second shooting, he volunteered to work on an anti-drug program with young children. “It was the other side,” he said. “It really broadened my sense of what this job is about. I realized that being a police officer is about much more than enforcement.”
McDonnell got a first-hand look at the devastation the city was enduring in an anti-gang unit in the LAPD’s West Bureau. “The scale of the problem and the desperation of the people involved stayed with me,” McDonnell said. “It was the beginning of me understanding that the gang problem in this city is not black and white. I saw kids who were brought up in homes that they didn’t get to choose and who were growing up in neighborhoods where gangs were the default family.”
Beck worked a similar assignment in South L.A., the epicenter of the city’s violence and misery. Like McDonnell, Beck said he was struck in retrospect by how one-dimensional and ineffective the crime-fighting approach was at the time compared to the city’s efforts today to link police work with gang intervention and prevention programs. “We were an occupying army,” he said. “I saw it not working, but I didn’t have the maturity yet as a person or professionally to recognize it and to understand why.”
With the exams that officers must pass to qualify for promotions and the internal politics of the LAPD, no one climbs the ranks by chance. These three are no exception, as each has deliberately sought bigger assignments and more responsibility over the years.
Early on, Moore set himself on an ambitious career trajectory, landing an array of positions in the field and in the LAPD’s administration offices, which are typically expected of officers who aspire to rise far in the department. He spoke with pride about a stint in the early 1990s in a criminal analysis unit, where he helped develop an early version of the computerized crime mapping systems that are used heavily today.
“It was something I needed to do to round out the look of Michel Moore,” he said, adding that the experience offered a stark lesson on the challenge of pushing change on a department entrenched in its ways of doing things.
Many people described Moore as a disciplined leader who demands as much of his staff as he does of himself. He often send e-mails late at night about issues he wants addressed and keeps close tabs on the work he assigns to be done. “Mike Moore is probably the hardest-working deputy chief I ever worked under,” said retired Cmdr. Valentino Paniccia, who was Moore’s second in command in the Valley. “If anyone is accusing him of being a micromanager” — and some do — “it’s because they weren’t doing their job. Those who aren’t doing well get micromanaged. . . . He lets you know he’s watching over your shoulder.”
Like Moore, McDonnell took on a range of assignments. More than the others, however, he gravitated toward high-level management assignments that landed him in the LAPD’s hallways of power instead of at command posts in the department’s field stations.
In the mid-1990s, he spent more than two years as a lieutenant running the department’s efforts to implement a more community-friendly philosophy. It was an idea that had long received lip service but was never aggressively pursued; the experience, McDonnell said, drove home for him “the power that can come from real collaboration between police and the community.”
Several of McDonnell’s supporters portrayed him as a serious but kind leader who demonstrates little obvious ego. “I’ve worked for a lot of different people and I sought Jim McDonnell out as a boss because of his reputation,” Capt. Scott Sargent said. “He pays attention to his people. The job is not about him at all.”
Throughout his career, Beck has spent most of his time in the field. While not denying an ambition to seek out new and bigger assignments over the years, Beck tended to shun many of the administrative positions that officers typically take to earn promotions. He also has shown less interest in pursuing academics, having only recently earned a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Long Beach. By contrast, Moore and McDonnell each have master’s degrees.
Beck’s evolution as a cop under Bratton is particularly striking. The son of an LAPD deputy chief, he grew up immersed in the old-guard, paramilitary approach to policing.
Soon after Bratton took over the department in 2002, however, he selected Beck to be the captain in charge of the Rampart Division, which had badly tarnished the department with revelations of corruption and abuses.
Beck was hailed by a panel that examined Rampart for his ability to develop — and get his officers to adopt — a more inclusive, progressive approach that emphasized a partnership with the residents.
“He puts you at ease as a leader,” said Officer Mike Wang, who worked with Beck at Rampart and elsewhere. Beck’s calm, hands-off approach can sometimes come across as aloofness to those not familiar with him, Wang acknowledged. “But that’s not what’s going on. He has an incredible intuition about his cops and what they need. . . . He can relate to you because he’s been there.”
Inevitably, a shake-up of the department’s leadership will follow after the mayor makes his choice as the new chief surrounds himself with people he trusts. It remains to be seen what happens to the two finalists who are not selected.
BY Joel Rubin
With the simple click of a mouse, Sgt. Charles Grasso recreates a car accident, causing a little green pickup truck to slide down a hill, narrowly miss oncoming traffic and come to rest in the middle of an intersection.
The “Crash Zone” software that Grasso demonstrated at the Enfield Police Department, and other high-tech accident reconstruction equipment, was recently made available to local police when they joined forces with six other area departments to form the Metro Traffic Regional Accident Reconstruction Team.
The newly formed traffic unit is part of a broader, statewide trend among police departments to save money and pool investigative resources by regionalizing services.
The impetus for forming this particular unit came from the Avon Mountain crash in 2005, Chief Carl J. Sferrazza said. Four people died in that crash after a dump truck driver lost control of his vehicle and smashed into a commuter bus and cars waiting at a traffic light.
The Enfield Police Department has been working with Metro Traffic Services, a regional traffic enforcement unit, since 2007 and has been able to bring more seatbelt checks, DUI checkpoints, and speed limit enforcement to town at a lower cost.
The new Accident Reconstruction Team, whose first full day of operation was last week, takes regional cooperation and a pooling of resources to the next level, according to Sferrazza.
In addition to Enfield, police officers from Manchester, South Windsor, East Windsor, Vernon, Glastonbury and Coventry, are also part of the new team, which held its first training day last week to practice with its new equipment.
“In the past we would measure with tape measures and hand draw scale drawings,” Grasso said, referring to the accident reconstruction process.
That was much slower, he explained. It is not uncommon for officers to close a roadway for several hours while they investigate a serious car crash, and it can take well over a month for them to resolve the accident.
“Your typical crash will take upwards of 10 weeks to investigate,” Manchester police Officer Guy Beck said. “This dramatically reduces the amount of time spent at the scene and time spent chasing around other people.”
“This is the next generation of accident investigation,” said Grasso, who works for the Enfield Police Department.
The team practiced with one particular piece of equipment, called Total Station, and plotted points around the parking lot at Green Manor Park on Taylor Road. The information collected by Total Station is then downloaded onto a computer and can be used to digitally recreate a collision, or even a large crime scene or airplane crash.
Officers can even plug in information as specific as the make, model, and color of a car involved, and its recreations are accurate to within a minute fraction of an inch, according to Grasso.
By using this equipment and bringing together officers specially trained in accident investigation, the team hopes to free up roadways faster, conclude cases in a shorter time frame, and bring closure to grieving families.
It also means that when the team is called in to investigate a collision, local police can return to their regular duties, and in the long run that saves money for the member departments and towns.
Sferrazza also said that since the department has joined Metro Traffic Services, the regional enforcement unit, it’s been able to obtain several grants it would not have gotten individually. He added that last year his department was reimbursed by the state Department of Transportation for more than $40,000 in overtime pay used to staff traffic projects.
The team plans to practice monthly and use the equipment to plot parks, intersections and other public areas in each of the member towns, in order to keep their skills sharpened, Grasso said.
He added, “I hope we never have to use this equipment, but if we do, we’re prepared.”
One of the best groups in a while, sergeant says The Benton Police Department has hired six new officers and Sgt. Kevin Russell said he believes they will benefit the city.
“I think this is one of the best groups in a while,” he said. “I think they will serve the citizens of Benton very well.”
Russell said the department hires new officers at least once a year after each prospective hire passes a civil service test and background check.
“They have to also take some physical and psychological tests,” Russell explained.
The new additions are Eli Fowlkes, 26; Douglas Speer, 24; Phillip Booher, 24; Nicholas Kinsey, 23; Steven Beck, 28; and Andrew Talbot, 22. The new officers have just completed two weeks of training and will start shifts on Monday with other officers for field training.
In January, the officers will leave for a 12-week training session at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in Camden.
According to ALETA, the goal of the 480-hour course is to professionalize law enforcement officers through education, training and employment standards.
Training includes instruction in standard police tactics; firearms; legal, educational and technical skills; and practical exercises.
To qualify for graduation, officers must maintain academic scores of at least 70 percent on each examination and consistently fire with at least 80 percent accuracy during firearms training exercises.
After passing the ALETA training, Russell said the officers could possibly work solo at the department by April. The new officers said they are excited about joining the force and look forward to completing training.
“This is something I have always wanted to do,” Beck said. “I have family in law enforcement, so it has interested me for a long time.”
Beck said he would like to become a drug enforcement officer and hopes to someday work with a K-9 unit.
Like Beck, Talbot said he also grew up with law enforcement in his blood.
“My dad [Capt. Andrew Talbot Sr.] is an officer in Lake Village,” he said. “I saw him do it and knew at a young age that [law enforcement] was what I wanted to do.”
Talbot said his dad is “excited” about him becoming an officer.
“He wants to see what kind of stories I can come back and share with him,” Talbot said.
Kinsey said he has wanted to be an officer “since childhood” and has enjoyed the training he has gone through at the department since being hired Aug. 18. He said he hopes to work patrol.
Booher said he got the idea of becoming an officer after taking criminal justice classes at Ouachita Technical College in Malvern.
He said after training with the police department, he hopes to obtain a criminal justice degree and possibly become a detective on the force.
Speer, who said he is a former U.S. Marine, has a unique view of why he decided to become an officer.
“I know it almost sounds cliché, but I think I was put here to help people,” he said. “I want to work here because this is my community.”
The sixth officer hired, Fowlkes, said he has worked as a reserve officer with the Benton police force since 2006.
“I loved the work that I was already doing with the department,” he said. “I decided to make the transition to a full-time officer.”
Asked how the training has been so far, a few of the officers said it was often intense but also fun at times.
Speer, who served four active years with the Marines including a tour in Afghanistan as a Humvee gunner, said he is not only used to the training but felt it will serve them well in the long run.
“I am used to the training and yelling,” he said, “but I think in the long run, you will always go back to the training you learned. All the little things we learn will carry with me. But, a lot of police work is not all hoopla, it is a lot about public image. We have to learn to take pride in the uniform.”
Booher also summed up his feelings about the training experience the group has encountered thus far.
“We have learned a lot of things,” he said. “At times it has been boring with some of the class work, but really I love it and I know the things we are learning will help us as officers.”