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LAPD Chief Beck on officer-involved shootings, California's concealed carry gun laws and marijuana enforcement

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck (L) and retiring Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca march in the 29th annual Kingdom Day Parade on January 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck (L) and retiring Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca march in the 29th annual Kingdom Day Parade on January 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck joined Larry Mantle Wednesday in-studio for AirTalk's monthly check-in.

Chief Beck spoke on potential changes to concealed weapon laws. He also touched on training required for officer-involved shootings and the enforcement of Los Angeles' marijuana ordinance.

Find excerpts from the interview below. The full discussion can be downloaded on the left. 

LARRY MANTLE: A three-judge panel, Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled California's rules on concealed carry fire arms violates the constitution. If this decision holds, do you think that will be OK? 

CHIEF BECK: Well, I am not a proponent of having more guns on the street. I have seen far too much gun violence in my lifetime to think that more guns is a solution. So I think it is a bad law. I am supporting the city and the county's appeal. I think that this is a decision that should be made at the local level by local chiefs and local sheriffs who in their jurisdiction can carry a concealed weapon. You have to have rules, which we do. You know, it's not that we never approve a concealed carry permit; it's that we approve very, very few. 

LM: For a law abiding citizen who wants to use a gun for self-defense, what is the harm?

CB: I think that first of all, people have to acknowledge the absolute fact that a gun is more likely to be used against you than you use a gun in self-defense. I see very, very few instances where people successfully use weapons as a means of self-defense. States that have very liberal gun laws — states like Texas — have levels of violence that I think would be unacceptable here. Houston is a good example — biggest city in Texas, 2.1 million people, about half the size of Los Angeles — they suffered 231 murders last year and we did 251. 

LM: How many of those were committed by people who had a license to carry? 

CB: I have no idea BUT — what I'm talking about is gun violence. These are both gun violence driven statistics. 

LM: But you're conflating the two.

CB: I don't agree with that if you let me answer. The presence of guns ... which is what this is about, leads to a much more likely solution to things that normally would not and so places like Houston ... suffer much more gun violence than us we do because there are more guns.

LM: But how do we make that logical leap that simply having more guns is the cause of that?

CB: I think that especially in places like Texas where there are very few restrictions on carrying a weapon in your car or on your person, you can clearly draw the much ... higher presence of fire arms and the higher presence of fire arms and just by extrapolation leads to more use of fire arms and that's what's happened. 

LM: But let's look at Utah where you have higher per capita ownership of fire arms than say Los Angeles and you have a lower violent crime rate so if that's the measure you are going to use, wouldn't it have to hold up outside of places like Texas? 

CB: No, you have to use urban communities.  You can't use rural populations. You have to compare apples to apples. So if you want to compare Los Angeles to small towns in Utah, there's no comparison. There's just no way to compare what goes on here. Now, if you want to compare a bigger city like Chicago or like Houston or New York City — something that has a more comparable population — then we can have a discussion. If you're just going to compare the whole state of Utah, it doesn't have the crime issues that the state of Los Angeles does nor the population. 

You talk about Chicago, that place has historically had among the toughest anti-gun laws in terms of major American cities and has the highest per capita gun crime rate. 

They do and I think if you were to talk to Gary McCarthy — which I have — on this exact topic, he will tell you that their gun laws are not strong enough and that their gun laws are not as strong as the gun laws in California. 

LM: The L.A. Police Commission voted to formalize the use of holistic review of officer involved shootings, not just what happened when the firing actually took place. Is this going to make a substantive difference in how officer involved shootings are reviewed? 

CB: No, not really Larry. We've always looked at the tactics involved in a shooting; we've always looked at the dry and exhibiting of a fire arm shooting and we've also looked at the actual instances of shooting. This just combines a portion of two of the categories and in the past, both of those categories have had policy findings and those policy findings could lead to discipline or termination of an employee so this really doesn't change that. What it does do, is that it allows the commission to do what it has done on ... several prior occasions and to use bad tactics to find a shooting policy. This is very rare. This is maybe less than half of 1 percent of officer involved shootings. 

LM: You had the review of the eight officers during the Dorner man hunt that fired on the newspaper deliverers. There, the officers can return to their job. What type of training will they be getting. What kind of errors in training led to the serious injuries one of the two women suffered?

CB: First of all, I have to be very general about this. It is absolutely against the law for me to talk about specific discipline for a police officer relative to a use of force so I'm not going to talk specifically to what's going to happen to any of these officers. 

... What I will say is that in every instance where an officer uses force, we specify training. And that training is very specific to the instances of the officer's use of force and any use of force that is judged to be out of policy and has training that attaches to it ... is going to be very extensive and require not only that the training be completed but that the testing occur along the way.... In a general discussion, that would have to happen before anyone went back to the field. 

LM: Will this incident have an impact on future training? 

CB: Well, we will certainly have a discussion on roles in policing that we normally don't have. You know the use of protection details is very rare in the reality of policing in Los Angeles. But it was very, very common during the incident that we were discussing. 

So we are going to have to have a general training overview of that so people understand what the purpose is. Normally and in any other circumstance, we use one of our specialized divisions to provide that kind of security for whoever may need it, including police officers. 

This was one of those incidents that was totally unforeseen where we had so many protectees that we couldn't possibly use a finite resource like specialized divisions to do that so we had to go into the greater workforce and so we are going to prepare our greater workforce to be able to accommodate that if it should ever happen again. 

LM: Where do things stand with the enforcement of  the marijuana ordinance in the city? Is your department engaging in any enforcement actions against those dispensaries that are open? 

CB: Well, we are working with the city attorney and the city council to review the applications for permanent status as marijuana collectives in the city of Los Angeles. There's about 120 people that have applied for that permanent status; we are doing not only reviews of those, but we're also doing enforcement on some of the locations that are not in application. You know, the city attorney is being very thoughtful about his response to the legislation on this and we are moving forward at a very thoughtful pace. ... 

LM: Under what interpretation of the law is the city acting for enforcement purposes? 

CB: We're still operating under the law, which is that collectives — which is a group of people that come to together to provide each other product — can do that if they do that in a specified manner, time and place. Our review of the ordinance supports that. 

LM: Let's talk about the size of the department. Los Angeles has historically been per capita under-policed. 

CB: We're in the middle of our budget discussions with the city, Larry. ... Our goal is to maintain the size of the Los Angeles Police Department. We are about 100 officers below our authorized strength right now — that's sounds like a lot, but it's less than 1 percent of the force so it's a manageable number. We continue to hire. 


Charlie Beck, Chief of Los Angeles Police Department