At last Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony for new Police Chief Charlie Beck, Angelenos were reminded of the enormous progress made by the Los Angeles Police Department since the 1992 riots. The atmosphere and speeches at this milestone event confirmed that the once maligned police department has regained the trust, confidence and faith of residents throughout the city. That’s good for our community and a very positive sign for businesses.
Beck’s 32-year professional career at LAPD embodies these changes, from his days in the notorious CRASH anti-gang unit to partnering with civil rights groups and community activists. We knew it was a historic day when former Chief Daryl Gates and former State Sen.Tom Hayden—one of LAPD’s fiercest critics, shared the dais in support of the new chief. Their presence was a reminder that Chief Beck’s tenure with the department links its history as the inspiration for the hard-nosed Dragnet television series and recipient of a federal consent decree to its reputation today as a model for community policing and data-driven crime fighting.
There is no shortage of challenges facing Chief Beck. He takes the reins at a time of record civilian unemployment and a major budget crisis. The department has not reached Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s goal of 10,000 officers and it’s unclear when the city will be able to afford that investment. Gang violence continues to impact many of our neighborhoods with an incalculable toll in human life. And there always remains the threat of terrorism for which the LAPD and its law enforcement partners are constantly preparing.
But crime rate are at near-record lows and our city’s support for our officers in blue continues to grow. As a result, our businesses can feel good about public safety and how Los Angeles stacks up compared to other major cities. Chief Beck’s responsibility is to keep building on this momentum.
It feels good to see the broad community support for Chief Beck and the department, especially in the African American community. That’s real change. It also feels good to see that in the midst of this great recession there are people who exemplify perseverance, progress and hope for the future. One of those people is the new Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. He has earned and deserves our support.
Gary Toebben is the President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. For more, visit Fox & Hounds Daily.