Former Interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck attempted to clear the air with the city’s current top cop Friday after David Brown said his predecessor’s de-centralized crime strategy “wasn’t working” and said Beck didn’t take police reform seriously enough.
In an interview with the Sun-Times, Beck pushed back on Brown’s claims and criticized his decision to abandon Beck’s attempts to put more dedicated officers in the community and instead create roving citywide teams of cops to fight crime.
Beck explained the “community-oriented style” he embraced pushes resources “as close as possible” to the areas they serve to foster relationships between citizens and police and build “healthy neighborhoods” that “don’t need the police so much because they have standards.”
He said Brown’s reconfiguration is “a more militaristic, shock-and-awe style of policing” with centralized resources deployed to hot spots. Ironically, that form of policing originated in Los Angeles in the 1960’s. Beck said Brown copied that “metropolitan division” during his tenure in Dallas and has copied it again in Chicago.
“It has a major drawback. That is, it tends to alienate the community that’s involved. You just cannot saturate neighborhoods with police and expect that to be a long-term strategy. It’ll work in the short-term. But it can’t be your go-to. It has to be something for emergencies,” Beck said.
In his phone call with Brown, Beck said he “recommended that he go back to a community-based strategy as soon as he could. And he agreed with that.”
A retired L.A. police chief, Beck held down the fort after the drinking and driving incident that prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to fire former Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, whose retirement she had celebrated just days before.
During Beck’s brief tenure in Chicago, he ordered one of the most sweeping reorganizations in the history of the Chicago Police Department. He put hundreds of officers and detectives back in neighborhood districts.
With homicides, shootings and civil unrest surging, Brown reversed field last summer and created large units that can be mobilized across the city to fight crime. It stripped neighborhood police districts of “four to six” officers on each watch to prevent a third round of looting downtown.
At a news conference Thursday that marked his first year in office, Brown appeared to violate the rules of the policing fraternity by blaming his predecessor.
“I just try not to do stuff that doesn’t work. That structure wasn’t working,” he said.
“The facts are, the old structure wasn’t working in the new landscape of global pandemic and a social justice movement around race.”
After reading a Sun-Times story about the press conference, Beck was understandably miffed.
On Friday, he called Brown to, as he put it, “clarify some things” and clear the air. Brown didn’t apologize.
“He said he didn’t use my name. … He said the strategies because of the spike in violence –104 murders in July — he had to reorganize in order to put enough boots on the ground to effect that immediately,” Beck said.
Beck took the high road. He said he wants both Chicago and Brown to “do well.”
“I don’t want this to be a Charlie-David dispute about who’s the better superintendent,” he said.
“I’ll stand by my numbers. I’m totally secure about what I did in L.A. I had much better numbers than Dallas did. I’m totally secure in what I did in the short time I was in Chicago. We had better numbers than are occurring now. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about what can we do to make Chicago a better place.”
Having said that, Beck took issue with Brown’s claim that his predecessor did not take compliance with a federal consent decree “very seriously,” forcing Brown and his top aides to “dig ourselves out of a hole.”
Beck said it took L.A. 12 years to get out from under a consent decree and it’ll surely take Chicago “at least half that.”
“I know that the things I did highly emphasized it. But is six months enough time to complete it? No. Not even close. It isn’t a checking the box thing. It’s training. It’s many other things that take a long time,” Beck said.
“He’s right. Chicago is still in a hole. I was busy filling it when I was there. What I was trying to do in everything I did was prepare Chicago in a way I knew would succeed in the future. I had no reasonable belief that, in a short amount of time, that I could finish the job. I was trying to frame the house so it had everything ready to be finished.”
Earlier this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot brushed aside complaints from Chicago aldermen who consider Brown about as low-profile a superintendent as Chicago ever has had on high-profile cases, including the police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.
That’s the antithesis of Beck, whose public persona is so larger-than-life, it inspired the television show, “Blue Bloods.”
Asked Friday whether he believes the low-key Brown should be more visible, Beck would only say, “Everybody has their own personal style. That’s not my style.”
Although he has watched the Adam Toledo shooting video, Beck refused to pass judgement on it.
He would only say that he believes the news media needs to “take ownership” of “augmenting” and “re-lighting” the photo” of Adam with his hands up and “printing it as if that was what the officer’s point of view would be.”