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In LAPD shake-up, Beck reassigns three of his deputies

The most notable move is Mark Perez being replaced as head of internal affairs by Debra McCarthy. Beck says the changes are meant to usher in 'fresh perspectives.'

May 04, 2013|By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times
  • Deputy LAPD Chief Mark Perez, who has run the department's internal affairs division for several years and oversaw a dramatic shift in how the department handles discipline, is being replaced by another deputy chief, Debra McCarthy.
Deputy LAPD Chief Mark Perez, who has run the department's internal… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has reassigned three of his deputies, including the head of the department's internal affairs division, in a shake-up the chief said is meant to usher in "fresh perspectives."

The most notable of the moves will see Deputy Chief Mark Perez, who has run internal affairs for several years and oversaw a dramatic shift in how the department handles discipline, be replaced by another deputy chief, Debra McCarthy.

McCarthy, 52, currently commands the department's West Bureau, which includes police stations in Venice, West L.A. and Hollywood. Deputy Chief Terry Hara, 55, will take over McCarthy's post and Perez, 56, will fill the vacancy left by Hara as the head of human resources and training.

The changes, which go into effect in two weeks, "were made to get some fresh perspectives and diversity of thought," Beck said in an interview with The Times.

Perez's departure from the Professional Standards Bureau, which investigates officers accused of misconduct, is certain to raise eyebrows within the department. Appointed to the post in 2006 by Beck's predecessor, William J. Bratton, Perez moved the department away from its traditional approach to disciplining officers that was centered on giving officers incrementally harsher punishments for repeat offenses.

Instead, Perez put in place a system that, as he frequently said, emphasized "strategy over penalty."

Problem officers, Perez believed, are more likely to change their behavior if they are made to think about their misconduct and how it undermined not only the department's mission of fighting crime but the officer's own self-interest.

"We have to lead as if we're going to progress past just punishing people and expecting that to get anything done," he once told the Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the department.

The idea led to a dramatic increase in the number of warnings instead of suspensions, which were the foundation of the old system. In theory, if an officer committed the same or a similar offense again after being warned, the officer faced being fired or receiving a lengthy suspension.

But in recent years, Perez clashed with members of the commission, who raised concerns about whether the new approach was working to cut down on misconduct and if officers were treated equally.

In defending his work before the commission, Perez often came across as disdainful and standoffish to members of the board and others.

Beck, in a brief interview, said he is not looking for McCarthy to dismantle Perez's work. Except in the relatively infrequent cases in which he wants the officers fired, Beck said, "I still believe in using methods that reform behavior instead of punish it."

Perez and McCarthy did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

For Hara, who recently made a failed bid for a seat on L.A.'s City Council, the change will be a return to familiar ground as he led West Bureau before McCarthy.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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