Crime & Justice

Michel Moore appointed LAPD chief to replace Charlie Beck

Michel Moore
Michel Moore
Courtesy of LAPD

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After being a finalist for LAPD chief in 2009 only to see the job go to Charlie Beck, Michel Moore has been selected to succeed Beck by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Moore, a 37-year veteran of the force, runs the LAPD's day-to-day patrol operations as first assistant chief, the number two at the department behind Beck, who's stepping down June 27.

Moore, 57, has held nearly every top job at the department, overseeing everything from the budget to personnel to special operations.

Garcetti noted Moore's extensive senior-level experience, adding that in his interviews he "brought a very deep sense of what we needed to do" to deal with the various challenges facing the department. "Also, he has the capacity to fire on multiple pistons at the same time," the mayor said. 

Garcetti picked Moore over Deputy Chief Robert Arcos, a 29-year veteran, and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, a former LAPD deputy chief.

The L.A. City Council still must confirm Garcetti's selection.

Moore said "I was humbled beyond description" when Garcetti called earlier Monday to offer him the position. 

He praised Beck for the job he's done during his tenure, and said he's not coming into the position with a preconceived agenda. Moore stressed that he wants to continue a listening campaign that he's been carrying out with people throughout L.A. and with the men and women of the LAPD.

He said community members have expressed "a desire that we be more engaged, that we be more deeply invested."

The LAPD rank-and-file "get heard again"

Moore said some of the things LAPD officers told him confirmed what he already knew, but in some cases what he heard "was water on my face in the sense of waking me up and saying I need to take a fresh look at this."

In an apparent allusion to the sometimes chilly relations between some of the rank-and-file and Beck, Moore said, "I need the people of this great department to know that today is a day that they get to step forward and be heard again. Whether they feel like they have been in the past is not relevant." What is relevant, Moore said, "is today as I take on this new position that they know that the organization has an opportunity to reset, an opportunity to reinvent, an opportunity to reinvigorate."

The board of directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the officers' union, congratulated Moore and expressed its hope that if he's confirmed "he will take immediate action to address low officer morale stemming from our critically low police staffing and that he will be absolutely committed to collaborating on new ideas to reduce violent crime and prepare our city for the 2028 Olympics."

Moore "is one of the most knowledgeable people at the LAPD," said L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who worked alongside Moore for nearly three decades at the LAPD.

"Mike Moore is an excellent problem solver," said Shane Murphy-Goldsmith, who sits on the five-member police commission that recommended the three finalists to Garcetti. "He has vast experience and will be able to hit the ground running on day one."

When Moore was a candidate for chief in 2009,  the Los Angeles Times reported that he was widely credited with helping lower crime rates in the San Fernando Valley during his more than four years in charge of the bureau that oversaw that area.

Moore was one of eight finalists last year for the job of chief of the Dallas Police Department.

Several L.A. Latino political leaders had lobbied Garcetti to select Arcos, who would have been the city's first Latino police chief. When asked about that, the mayor noted that he hired the city's first Latino fire chief and selected an African-American woman to run Los Angeles World Airports. Garcetti then said, "I wasn't looking to fill a demographic or make history," adding, "I wanted the best person for the job, and that’s Mike Moore."

The mayor called Arcos and Scott "exceptional" candidates. "Bobby Arcos will be an amazing chief one day, whether it’s here or another city," Garcetti said. "He’s an empath."

One of Arcos' advocates, L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo, issued a decidedly lukewarm statement following Moore's selection. He called Garcetti's announcement "the first step in the selection process," saying that as the city council considers the appointment, "I look forward to engaging in a rigorous vetting process with my colleagues."

Cedillo went on to say that councilmembers "know what experience is most important to our communities. It's within that framework that the council must make its decision to determine what experience matters most and who the next Police Chief will be." 

Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said Moore "has worked productively with ACLU and other civil rights and community organizations in the LAPD’s creation of a more humane impound policy, enforcement of street vending laws, and limiting the department’s interactions with immigration enforcement." 

Villagra went on to say that Moore must commit himself to "completely disentangling the department from federal immigration enforcement and limiting dragnet surveillance," adding that, if confirmed, Moore "must also adopt de-escalation policies, reform gang enforcement practices, and increase transparency and accountability around officer misconduct."

"I am one to challenge that status quo"

In an interview with KPCC before his selection, he listed several goals, including: hiring more women and black officers; improving community relations, especially with African-Americans; diving deeper into the role implicit bias may be playing in policing at the LAPD; and shifting more officers from specialized units to patrol cars.

The chief-to-be is demanding of employees and peers alike, said Deputy Chief Bob Green. "He is very assertive. He can dominate a meeting," he said.

"I am one to challenge that status quo," Moore told KPCC. "That means disrupting a conversation that was going pretty mellow."

He said, "I’ve had leaders hold that against me."

Moore did say "there’s been maturing on my part" over time. "I need to slow down and I need to engage others ... I’ve also had to learn I am not always right."

Starting as a 21-year-old patrol officer in 1981, Moore moved up through the ranks, serving as a detective, sergeant and lieutenant, according to his LAPD bio.

He was promoted to captain in 1998, which led to one of his key assignments: assuming command of the Rampart Division following the arrest of then-officer Raphael Perez in a widespread corruption scandal that involving stealing cocaine booked as evidence and stealing drugs from suspects.

Moore reached the rank of commander in 2002 and deputy chief in 2004. He became an assistant chief in 2010 and was put in charge of the detective bureau and the counter-terrorism and special operations bureau. Beck put him at the head of the LAPD's office of administrative services in 2015, where he oversaw fiscal, personnel, training and other operations. He also chaired the department's use of force review board. 

As he rose through the ranks, Moore became known as a detailed-oriented, data-focused boss.

"He’s got a memory for everything and he’s very Type A," said Green. "And his ability to make a good decision is unsurpassed."

Green recalled one of the first times he saw Moore in action, during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in L.A. Moore issued a dispersal order to a group of protestors that was in part an acknowledgement of their concerns, said Green, an expert in dealing with that type of situation.

"I was just extremely impressed by his knowledge of crowd management," said Green, adding that Moore knew how to use more forceful persuasion, too.

pentecostal values, seeking "a life that had meaning"

Moore said he first thought about becoming a police officer when he was 14. He liked the idea of working outdoors in a challenging profession.

"At the end of the day, I wanted to do something larger than myself," he said, "to live a life that had meaning, that felt like I was helping people."

He learned those values attending Pentecostal churches with his family, adding, "my butt was in a lot of pews for a lot of revivals."

For a time, Moore's family also attended a Seventh Day Adventist church, which honors Saturday as the Sabbath.  "That meant sitting at home Friday nights missing high school football games," he said.

Moore’s father was a Basque immigrant who moved the family a lot looking for work. Born in Porterville, California, Moore ended up graduating from high school in Conway, Arkansas. By then his father had left and his mother had remarried. His stepfather suggested he drop his father’s name of Sanchotena.

When his mother and stepfather broke up, they moved back to California, he said.

For a time, Moore thought he’d study accounting. But he heard then-LAPD Chief Daryl Gates talk about needing cops who wouldn’t drive by dark alleys but down them. He quit his better-paying Lockheed job building planes and joined the LAPD.

"I saw a great deal of violence," Moore said of his early years, when the scourge of rock cocaine brought piles of cash, guns by the thousands and untold misery to poor neighborhoods.

the community "saw us as occupiers"

He was involved in two shootings. In 1985, while working in South L.A.’s Newton Division, Moore wounded a man who pointed a gun at him and his partner inside a produce market.

The next year, he was moonlighting as a security guard at Topanga Plaza when a man with a rifle killed his wife in the parking lot. Moore won the LAPD’s Medal of Valor for confronting the man and fatally shooting him as he turned the gun on Moore.

But the violence was taking its toll and Moore looked around for other ways to police the community. He joined Gates’ anti-drug DARE program and talked to school kids for a year and a half.

Moore said he noticed during his time on the streets that "the people we were trying to protect saw us as occupiers. They thought we were punishing them."

That experience led him to join a group of officers who changed their thinking and embraced community policing. 

"Here's to the crazy ones ... the rebels"

Moore traces his independent thinking to his childhood, growing up with different dads and a mother who raised five kids.

"I had to find my own way a lot," said Moore, who’s been married 27 years and has a 19 year-old-daughter. He said he plans to move from Santa Clarita to L.A. to serve as chief.

Ever since he was a captain, Moore has had a poster on the wall that’s an old Apple ad written by Steve Jobs highlighting its slogan, "Think Different."

"Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels…" it starts.

Moore’s favorite part: "You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things."

He added, "what I really thrive on is we are here to make a difference."

This story has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly said he was 54.