HERMOSA BEACH — Police Chief Frank Beeson has announced that he will retire as head of the 34-officer department on June 30.
City Manager Gregory Meyer is expected to recommend to the City Council on Tuesday that the Police and Fire departments be consolidated under the direction of a single public safety director.
Beeson said in a telephone interview Thursday that his decision to retire was not related to the public safety proposal, but rather hinged on state requirements that have prohibited him from retiring before April 1. Beeson, 56, has served as chief since April, 1981.
"I am just going to change careers," said Beeson, who is a real estate broker with Rolling Hills Realty in Rolling Hills Estates. "I have been involved with real estate for many years."
Beeson said, however, that he was never consulted by city officials about the proposed public safety position, and that he first heard about it last month when Meyer asked for council permission to study the proposal.
At that time, some city officials said there were rumors at City Hall that the proposal was in part designed to force Beeson out.
Asked last week if he would have been interested in the public safety post, Beeson replied, "Not necessarily."
Meyer, who said the public safety proposal is intended as a cost-cutting measure, said he had not anticipated Beeson's retirement. But with the retirement, he said, he hopes a public safety director could begin working in the summer. The city has been without a permanent fire chief since Ronald Simmons resigned last July.
May Not Be Legal
Beeson warned in the interview that the city may not be legally allowed to eliminate a civil-service department head, which the public safety proposal effectively would do, because the positions were created by referendum.
Meyer, however, said City Atty. James Lough is preparing an opinion that will detail the city's authority to consolidate the two positions. He said he will submit a proposal for the public safety position to the council on Tuesday.
Beeson, who served nearly 27 years with the Los Angeles Police Department before moving to Hermosa Beach, said he will leave the city most proud of formalized disciplinary procedures and a computerized record system that he introduced to the department.
Officer Wally Moore, who heads the police officers' association, also pointed to Beeson's technological and procedural improvements within the department, saying Beeson "moved us toward the 21st Century."
'A Real Professional'
"He has been an excellent chief; he is a real professional," Moore said.
Meyer, who said he would give Beeson an "above average" rating as chief, said Beeson's experience in Los Angeles was one of his greatest strengths.
"He basically has seen it all happen," Meyer said. "We gained a state-of-the-art knowledge . . . ."
Beeson's five-year tenure with the city has been marred by two widely publicized suspensions for being intoxicated while on duty. Last year, after the second suspension, Beeson checked himself into an alcohol recovery program.
In the interview last week, Beeson acknowledged that his bout with alcoholism "might be a problem to other people," but said "it is not a problem to me."
"People that comment on that don't understand the disease," he said. "I have been through a rehabilitation program, and I feel I am knowledgeable in that, part of the program was 34 days as an inpatient in the hospital. Unless you have been there, you don't understand that."
City in Financial Bind
Beeson has headed a department that has been hit hard by the city's financial crunch over the past several years, although he leaves the department with six more officers than when he arrived, he said.
Last month, he submitted a proposal to the City Council for a $182 annual tax per dwelling unit for police, fire and paramedic services, but the council refused to place the proposed tax on the ballot. Beeson said the city's financial problems are deeply rooted and go far beyond his department.
"The city has a hard financial problem and that is the city's problem, not my problem," he said.
While with the Los Angeles Police Department, Beeson served as a commander in the central and west bureaus, and directed public safety operations during the Baldwin Hills flood and dam disaster, the Watts riots, the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the Sylmar earthquake.
Asked what he will miss most about his job when he retires, Beeson said, "Just being around policemen."