Identity Politics Brushed Aside in LAPD Chief Selection

Moore’s selection as a finalist was a bit of a mystery, as most in the department believed the commission would have chosen as the third finalist either Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, the department’s highest-ranking black officer, or one of the LAPD’s two senior females, Assistant Chief Sharon Papa or Deputy Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur. (MacArthur even put up what amounted to a campaign website where she touted herself for the job.) What a surprise it was to see identity politics brushed aside to leave the most qualified people vying for the position.

In his announcement on Tuesday, Villaraigosa took time to praise both McDonnell and Moore, and he spoke at length about how difficult his decision had been. And it may indeed have been, as Beck and McDonnell seemed fairly well matched in both experience and temperament, while Moore was seen as the upstart with the boldest ideas on how the LAPD should be managed. While Moore’s inclusion in the top three was a surprise, the Los Angeles Times reports he so impressed the police commissioners during his interview that they placed him first among the finalists in their order of preference (an opinion I can confidently say is not widely shared among the department’s rank and file). The article also said Bratton’s heavy-handedness in trying to promote Beck as his successor nearly cost Beck the job.

And what to make of Charlie Beck? It was heartening to watch him get emotional as he delivered his remarks Tuesday in front of the Getty House, L.A.’s official mayoral residence. “I woke up this morning and I was thrilled to be a member of the Los Angeles Police Department,” he said, “and I’m thrilled for my new role.” Even as he acknowledged the LAPD’s sometimes ignominious recent history, the pride he has in the department was evident as he choked up while discussing his deep roots in Los Angeles law enforcement. There to witness the event were his father, a retired LAPD deputy chief; his wife, a retired L.A. County sheriff’s deputy; his sister, a retired LAPD detective; and his daughter, a patrol officer assigned to LAPD’s Hollywood Division. Unable to attend was his son, a police recruit who will graduate from the LAPD academy in December. How gratifying it was to see this pride on such unselfconscious display. “This is not just a job to me,” he said, “this is who I am.”

The contrast with his predecessor was striking. Give William Bratton his due: he took over a department in disarray after ten years of ineffectual leadership, and he left it in far better condition than would have seemed even remotely possible when he arrived seven years ago. But he is a turnaround artist; he was never truly invested in Los Angeles or the LAPD except insofar as they provided a stepping stone to his next job. To the extent he displayed any emotions at all, they seldom veered beyond annoyance and outright anger. On those rare occasions he wore the department uniform he looked uncomfortable and out of place, like a bad actor playing a cop on television. How welcome it is to now see a police chief who wears that uniform so proudly.

Best of luck, Chief Beck.