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Charlie Beck Named Interim Chicago Police Superintendent, As Eddie Johnson Retires

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The day after Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said he would retire at year's end, Mayor Lori Lightfoot moved quickly to name an outsider, former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, as interim superintendent.

Beck spent more than 40 years with the Los Angeles department, leading as its chief from late 2009 until his retirement in June, 2018.

"Eddie's not going anywere, he will be working with me during my tenure," Beck said at a news conference on Friday morning. "I am excited to continue my friend, Eddie Johnson's legacy.

"Even though my stay here will be brief, I look forward to working with the residents of Chicago, meeting them, learning about their needs and making this a better place."

Beck said he would have a hand in reviewing candidates for a permanent superintendent. He made it clear that he has no interest or plan to take on the Chicago job long-term.

"I didn't take this to build my resume of make money," Beck told reporters.

Beck left behind significant challenges in Los Angeles.

Violent crime rose for four straight years (2013-2017) after 12 years of declines, CBS station KCBS reported on Beck's retirement in June, 2018.

Police shootings went up while dropping in other large U.S. cities, and the department was a focal point of criticism by the local Black Lives Matter movement, whose members regularly attended the meetings of the Board of Police Commissioners to chastise the department over the shootings of civilians.

According to a Washington Post database, LAPD leads the nation in fatal police shootings. Between 2015 and November 7, 2019, there were a total of 73 fatal police-involved shootings in LA.

Top Cities
(Credit: Washington Post database)


The second place city was Phoenix with 69 fatal shootings. For comparison, according to this dataset, Chicago had 34 fatal police-involved shootings during that same time period.

In Los Angeles, the vast majority were people of color.

Shootings By Race
(Credit: Washington Post database)

Beck, 66, implemented a program that would encourage de-escalation tactics. Those policies caused some controversy among police rank and file.

"I try to talk empathy all the time with my officers. You have to understand where people come from. You have to understand that their experiences are different than yours and that may affect the way they see things," Beck told CBS Los Angeles in September, 2016.

"Literally, a Los Angeles police officer, those two men or women in that car, have the power to take away your life, liberty and property in ways that nobody, not even the president of the United States has. And that has to be tempered by responsibility. And that has to be tempered by oversight, and that's my job," Beck said.

The Chicago police union, not surprisingly, would like somebody from within the Chicago Police Department named to the permanent top spot. Prior to Johnson, that hadn't happened since 2003 when Phil Cline was appointed by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The Chicago Police Board will now conduct a nationwide search and recommend three finalists to the mayor.

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