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LAPD Chief Beck hears mixed bag of feedback in East LA

East Los Angeles residents on Tuesday gave L.A. police chief Charlie Beck a mixed bag of unfavorable and tepid reviews of his last five years as head of the LAPD at a community meeting on his bid for reappointment.

The Los Angeles Police Commission held its third and final public community meeting at the Lincoln Heights Senior Center. Police Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa was absent, though the rest of the civilian oversight board was present, including Beck.

More than 60 people filled a medium-sized cafeteria room at the senior center. At least half of the attendees gave two-minute critiques of Beck’s performance. The tone of this meeting was less favorable than other community meetings held about Beck's reappointment.

“There has been improvement,” said East L.A. resident Ernest Sanchez. “The only thing is I don’t like the city taking credit for crime falling when it’s happening across the county.”

Crime in Los Angeles had been falling for 11 straight years, and gang crime has been cut in nearly half since Beck was hired as police chief in 2009, according to the LAPD. On Wednesday, Beck and Garcetti are expected to give an update on mid-year crime statistics.

For about two hours, residents voiced concerns about illegal fireworks, lax enforcement of traffic laws and building a better relationship with East L.A. residents.

A couple of people told the commission and Beck “there are bad apples” in the department but said they felt the problems were solvable. One person asked Beck to attend more community meetings on this side of the 110 Freeway.

“Chief, you have community members here. Listen to them and let’s make this work,” said Johnny Andrade, who said he works closely with the Newton police station.

A sizable group of Skid Row residents and advocates for the homeless with the Los Angeles Community Action Network showed up to scorn what they called the “over policing of Skid Row residents.”

“I got a fear of cops,” said Zandra Soils, 49, who lives in the Skid Row area. “I used to trust them. I don’t trust them anymore, because I don’t know if I am going to walk outside and get killed by one of your cops.”

Many of the speakers criticized the police department for its handling of a mentally ill homeless man who climbed on top of a billboard in downtown L.A. last month. Police shocked the man with a Taser, and he fell to his death.

“If you’re going to come here on a next term, do something,” said James Porter, a LANCAN board member. “We want you to. If you can’t do it, don’t come back.”

Several members of a group called Stop LAPD Spying Coalition criticized Beck over a police surveillance policy using the “iWatch, See Something, Say Something” program, the potential use of drones and the data crunching used in predictive policing to guess where property crimes will occur next.

“It becomes a society and a culture and a policy of social control,” said Hamid Khan, the group's campaign coordinator.

Two commenters, one of them a current L.A. police officer, asked the police commission not to reappoint the chief because of a lack of leadership, playing favorites with officer discipline and city payouts for employee lawsuits.

A handful of speakers praised Beck for his 37 years of service, highlighting the partnerships he has forged with other government departments and the LAPD's outreach to undocumented immigrant communities across the city.

The public can continue to send comments to the L.A. Police Commission online about Beck’s reappointment request. The commission is expected to vote on August 12.

An earlier headline mischaracterized the tone of the meeting. KPCC regrets the error.