Perhaps unexpectedly, the city's fiscal mess has provided Beck an opportunity to step outside Bratton's sizable shadow. In his many public and private meetings with City Council members and police union officials to hash out the department's funding, Beck has earned praise and respect from both camps for what many have said is his collaborative, non-confrontational attitude and deep understanding of the issues.
"Bratton would have stood outside City Hall in his sweat suit and said 'screw you' and challenged us to a fistfight," said Smith, making an exaggerated reference to criticisms Bratton once leveled at the council when a reporter caught up with him after a workout. "You got the sense with Bratton that it was always about him. It's not like that with Charlie."
In some important ways, Beck remains untested. He has not faced a major incident involving his officers along the lines of the May Day melee that Bratton had to confront or the Rodney King beating under Daryl Gates. He did face some heat from residents in the heavily immigrant Westlake neighborhood after an officer fatally shot a knife-wielding day laborer on a major thoroughfare. Tensions lessened after a few days, however.
Beck said he felt there was still considerable work to be done on what he sees as one of his overarching goals: to ingrain the reforms that Bratton introduced into the mind-set of rank-and-file officers.
"When I was chosen as chief, this city was obsessed with the mayor's decision. Obsessed. I saw that as a desperate cry from people who were saying, 'We don't have faith in the organization,' and so it became too important to them that they have faith in whoever was selected as chief," Beck said. "But the faith has to be in the organization. I don't plan on letting this city down, but let's say that I did. That should not affect people's opinion of the entire organization....The organization has to be bigger than any one person."