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The Curious Case of Charlie Beck and the Australian-made Police Car

Back in the spring, LAPD Chief Bill Bratton took Chief of Detectives Charlie Beck with him on a trip halfway around the world to check out what he wants as the next generation of patrol car: The Australian-made Holden Commodore.

Beck, now a near certainty to be named Bratton’s successor on Monday, has been the point man in pushing the Commodore as the replacement for the US-made Ford Crown Victoria that has been that standard police vehicle for years.
Thumbnail image for lapdcar3.jpg
It’s a curious case why the head of detectives would be in charge of steering this deal while the motor transport experts within the LAPD would be left out in the cold, not even given the chance to test the car’s performance.

Yet, the Commodore was put on display Saturday at the grand opening of the LAPD’s lavish but unnamed new Police Headquarters (although it was moved to the back of the building instead of being part of the ceremonies despite Bratton’s wishes).

So at 11 a.m. today, the chief will formally unveil the foreign-made car of his choice – a strange choice indeed when America’s car industry has collapsed even though Holden, based in Melbourne, is owned by GM.

Back in March, the Commodore with LAPD decals on it created a stir at the Australian auto show in Sydney with rampant speculation that a deal with LAPD would legitimize the car for police uses and lead to exports of as many as 40,000 vehicles a year to US law enforcement agencies.

Beck’s role in the car deal, his appearances in place of the chief at budget hearings and Bratton’s favoritism toward him has made it clear to nearly everyone involved that he will get the chief’s job on Monday over lesser Bratton favorites Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell and Valley Deputy Chief Michel Moore.



LAPD insiders have watched in some amazement as Beck took over the
scandal-plagued Rampart Division and soared to the top of Bratton’s
small cadre of trustworthy commanders. They believe he represents the
chief’s best chance to retain a measure of influence over the
department after a seven-year run that represents the greatest success
of his career.

A dramatic reduction in violent crime, the end of
the federal consent decree, a new police headquarters, restoration of
the LAPD’s reputation – no one can deny, no one has even questioned,
Bratton’s achievement.

This is Bratton’s LAPD, remade by his
vision from the day he came in as a highly-paid consultant to define
the terms of the consent decree to the day last summer he got it
lifted.

Those who have worked with him think he will not give
up total control if he can help it and it’s doubtful that the mayor
will ignore his choice for chief despite having nothing to boast about l politically
besides the LAPD success story.

Bratton
operates in a tight little world of police experts nationally who
affect policy and even the choices of local police chiefs through a
group called the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) headed by John
Timoney, the embattled police chief in Miami.

Timoney himself
was a last-minute candidate for the LAPD job, slipping in and out of
town without notice, perhaps for no other reason than to overshadow all
other outsiders and lend his weight behind favorite son Beck as the
commander best qualified to succeed Bratton.

The are people who
operate in an elite world, getting each other well-paid consultant jobs
as chiefs, consultants and, now in Bratton’s case, a post as head of
international operations for the global security firm Altegrity, headed
by Michael Cherkasky, who was the federal monitor on the consent decree.

Bratton’s resignation as chief caught everyone by surprise, even the mayor who was not given advance notice.

Back in the spring, Bratton called his command staff together and assured them he’d be around for years to come.

Unlike
the LAPD lifers around him, he had jumped from job to job and wasn’t in
line for a handsome six-figure pension. He was under water in his Los
Feliz house and his investments were worth half what they were a year
earlier. Besides, the LAPD Chief and his celebrity wife lived large
unlike most cops.

At the same time, other forces were at work
that call into question whether Bratton was developing the option of
cashing in on his remarkable success.

Cherkasky had just taken
over the top position in Altegrity and was in discussion with Bratton’s
controversial prodigy, Savannah Chief Michael Berkow – the outsider
Bratton had brought to head internal affairs — about a top-level
position in LA as early as April, three months before Cherkasky’s
report helped end the consent decree.

No one in authority in
LAPD believes for a second that longtime friends Bratton and Cherkasky
weren’t at about the same time talking about the possibility of the
LAPD Chief joining the firm.

This is important because Cherkasky
recommended lifting the consent decree on the grounds the LAPD had
achieved substantial compliance, at the cost of hundreds of millions of
dollars that many thought could have been spent more wisely on beefing
up the Police Department or other dire needs of the city.

Insiders
wonder what is really up and, most of all, whether Bratton’s choice of Beck, like his choice of the Australian police
car, is good for the LAPD and the city.



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35 Responses to The Curious Case of Charlie Beck and the Australian-made Police Car

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good post Ron. The NC’s can have a say and send those e-mails to Mayor mayor@lacity.org for the man who Bratton should be thanking Chief McDonnell who developed the outline for the reorganization and restructuring of LAPD.”Wth Bratton’s frequent trips out of town, McDonnell has often been called to stand in as chief.” Beck doesn’t have the community policing experience compared to McDonnell and the rank and file want Chief McDonnell. Beck when you look at his resume doesn’t have a great deal of experience in ALL areas of LAPD. The reason he made finalist was because of Bratton (bad move) and Connie Rice and the Village Idiot Jeff Carr want him. If that isn’t a red flag to people.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You wrote, “Unlike the LAPD lifers around him, he had jumped from job to job and wasn’t in line for a handsome six-figure pension. He was under water in his Los Feliz house and his investments were worth half what they were a year earlier. Besides, the LAPD Chief and his celebrity wife lived large unlike most cops.
    At the same time, other forces were at work that call into question whether Bratton was developing the option of cashing in on his remarkable success.
    Those not “in the know” would never have guessed that Bratton was cash strapped. Didn’t he have a big pension from New York City? If he was cash strapped then you would assume that he was always on the lookout for a “money tree”. Do we know for certain that Bratton was cash strapped?
    How sad. An Australian patrol car as the premier patrol car in the USA, given American’s premier role in the auto industry. There’s a smoking gun for you. It’s a little suspicious.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Insiders at city hall are saying its a done deal because Antonio wants a yes man like Beck. Problem is Beck doesn’t have any ties to any Latino communities. He probably needs a map to find the Eastside and South LA Latinos. There should be outrage at Antonio pretending and telling the media he wants input from many people when in reality he’s lying to the people.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “and lend his weight behind favorite son Beck as the commander best qualified to succeed Bratton.”
    Regarding the above quote, all anyone has to do is read the bios sent out by the Police Commission regarding the three candidates and it’s a no brainer that McDonnell has the best qualifications and is the best person for the job. Deputy Chief Moore is the best qualified to get the 1st Asst. Chief’s position. I am sure Beck is very good in his present position, but according to their bios, it’s obvious that the other two are more qualified to replace Bratton.
    BTW, a Commander is a lower level position than Chief and has less responsibility.
    Why would the City even comtemplate buying imported foreign made vehicles for the LAPD. No wonder our economy is going to hell! We need the jobs and the money to stay in the USA. What a slap in the face that will be to American Citizens if they do that? Why aren’t the Chief’s organizations in the USA getting together and tell Detroit what they need. No doubt Detroit can handle manufacturing cars for PD’s in the USA. It will make it worth their investment if they get a decent order.
    I’m not crazy about unions, but, where are they when you need them?
    The city will have a fight on their hands if they plan to go through with that! Are you listening SLAP members?!

  5. Anonymous says:

    The candidates are good choices but you have to ask why is Beck the head of detectives involved with these cars? The polls on websites have McDonnell leading. Poor cops aren’t getting to have their say because of the Police Political League doesn’t want to get involved. McDonnell has 7 years as a 1st Assistant Chief and the other two never made it to the 6th floor. You gotta figure he has way more experience on that level and does a good job with the cops on force investigations. He’s fair but will punish those who did wrong.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “How sad. An Australian patrol car as the premier patrol car in the USA, given American’s premier role in the auto industry. There’s a smoking gun for you. It’s a little suspicious”
    A little? How about a TON of suspicion! Nothing against Australia is has been our biggest ally, but, the USA is in big economic trouble and we need to take care of ourselves or we can’t continue helping the world as we do. Who is going to held accountable for selling us out?

  7. anonymous says:

    Are you kidding me? Charlie Beck being supported as the front runner for COP by Bratton. I thought Earl Paysinger was responsible for the successes in crime decreases. I thought it was Sharon Papa that led the charge in recruiting and hiring officers that got the Dept to 10,000 cops. Wasn’t it Mike Downing that is responsible for LAPD being a leader in innovative programs in the fight against Terrorism. Maybe Charlie, was in charge of the Consent Decree? No that can,t be right, he is in charge of detectives and the fleet. Oh well, as Bratton calls him his utility player, I am sure that is what qualifys him to be COP. Now the question is will it be healthy for Altegrity to have an insider in Beck and Brattons Lawyer running the LAPD?

  8. Anonymous says:

    It was a done deal long time ago.
    It`s Beck. The rest is a dog and pony show.

  9. Hank says:

    Why the sudden concern about foreign-made vehicles for use by the LAPD? Haven’t they been driving Kawasaki’s for many years?

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am going to put my two cents in and ask you to seriously consider a man named Moore who has been doing a super job in the San Fernando Valley.
    I think we need a man like him for police chief not a guy who plays ball with the Mayor.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Deputy Chief Moore on the North Hollywood Synogogue shooting at this morning’s press confernece:
    -Long winded grandstanding
    -Spoke very poorly
    -Gave out way too much info too early
    Not the best rep for the LAPD Chief

  12. Anonymous says:

    9:15 AM
    What does what you mention have to do with managing a department that works?
    For example, you are probably a pretty
    decent fellow, usually.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Long-winded grandstanding, spoke poorly but too long, gave out too much information that raised more questions than it answered, from the West Valley: yup, would fit in perfectly with Zine, Smith and Nooch. Except he’s not a bully and probably understands his legal limitations.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Too bad heard it was a done deal with Beck. The dumbest move by the Mayor yet. Beck has not nearly the experience he should. He’s going to be a lapdog and get dragged around by the nose by the mayor. Beck only claim to getting promoted is he did some stuff in south la with gangs. BFD??? He has no community policing experience, doesn’t know any stakeholder leaders, has never worked with any community groups, so everything Bratton put in place Beck wsa never part of but the other two at least have community support.

  15. No Worries! says:

    Not to worry!
    The Los Angeles Times won’t stand by while the People are ripped off again! Sandy Banks will tell us how many moms worked on them in Australia, George Skelton will say this shows the need for still higher taxes, Steve Lopez will write about it after its a mess in place and Rutten will chide us for being chauvanistic about cars–”Australian vehicles deserve a chance.”
    The City Council will assuredly weigh in. Using LA taxpayers to fund a sweetheart deal is nothing they’ll tolerate!
    You all wory too much!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Chief McDonnell is the most qualified candidate to lead LAPD as he cares for the quality of life of ALL ANGELENOS.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Chief McDonnell is the most qualified candidate to lead LAPD as he cares for the quality of life of ALL ANGELENOS.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I cant wait to see what Mr Humphreyville, the rate payer advocate thinks about this posting by Mr kaye.
    If we do get a rate payers advocate will he demand that DWP only contract with American companies, as Mr Kaye suggests, regardless of the cost to taxpayers?

  19. waiting... says:

    anon at 2:05:
    Why do you assume it costs less?
    How about sweeping away the veil of secrecy so we can determine why a car from Australia has been boosted to first place without the slightest public discussion by an outgoing chief?
    It may the greatest car ever, but given what goes on in our city, pardon me for wanting some facts.
    Its not like we’ve never had a foreign product picked under suspicioous circumstances before. Thank you Mr. Kaye-at least someone is watching.

  20. Nina Royal says:

    October 28, 2009 10:45 PM writes “Why the sudden concern about foreign-made vehicles for use by the LAPD? Haven’t they been driving Kawasaki’s for many years?”
    In my opinion is that deals such as those have drastically affected our U.S. economny negativally over the years and we recently had to bail out the auto makers as well as the banks with our tax dollars. The U.S. imports more than we export. That’s lopside and affects our jobs and out pocket books. We need to stop it if we are to continue to be the worlds caretaker or we will be the country asking for help.
    Any agency that is being government subsidize
    with grants, loans, bail outs, tax dollars, etc. should be required to buy or spend that money domestic only. Defense manufactures were required to do so for years and then we had to compete with Isreal and other countries to manufacture products for our own defense industry. Look what happened to that industry when they eliminated that clause. I was a former Materials Manager and worked in the Defense Industry for years and I along with many others lost good careers as manufacturing was phased out in the U.S. and our companies moved abroad.
    The news this am said that Ford quit manufacturing the Ford Victoria, which is why they went to Austrailia to look at their design that “might” be produced in the U.S. We put men on the moon, I’m sure we could design and produce our own car that will get the job done for PD’s here in the U.S.
    I firmly believe that if U.S. Police Chiefs organizations in the U.S. got together to design & purchase cars, Detroit could produce one that will fit our needs if they have a large enough committment. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that.

  21. Nina Royal says:

    October 28, 2009 10:45 PM writes “Why the sudden concern about foreign-made vehicles for use by the LAPD? Haven’t they been driving Kawasaki’s for many years?”
    In my opinion is that deals such as those have drastically affected our U.S. economny negativally over the years and we recently had to bail out the auto makers as well as the banks with our tax dollars. The U.S. imports more than we export. That’s lopside and affects our jobs and out pocket books. We need to stop it if we are to continue to be the worlds caretaker or we will be the country asking for help.
    Any agency that is being government subsidize
    with grants, loans, bail outs, tax dollars, etc. should be required to buy or spend that money domestic only. Defense manufactures were required to do so for years and then we had to compete with Isreal and other countries to manufacture products for our own defense industry. Look what happened to that industry when they eliminated that clause. I was a former Materials Manager and worked in the Defense Industry for years and I along with many others lost good careers as manufacturing was phased out in the U.S. and our companies moved abroad.
    The news this am said that Ford quit manufacturing the Ford Victoria, which is why they went to Austrailia to look at their design that “might” be produced in the U.S. We put men on the moon, I’m sure we could design and produce our own car that will get the job done for PD’s here in the U.S.
    I firmly believe that if U.S. Police Chiefs organizations in the U.S. got together to design & purchase cars, Detroit could produce one that will fit our needs if they have a large enough committment. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that.

  22. Nina Royal says:

    October 28, 2009 10:45 PM writes “Why the sudden concern about foreign-made vehicles for use by the LAPD? Haven’t they been driving Kawasaki’s for many years?”
    In my opinion is that deals such as those have drastically affected our U.S. economny negativally over the years and we recently had to bail out the auto makers as well as the banks with our tax dollars. The U.S. imports more than we export. That’s lopside and affects our jobs and out pocket books. We need to stop it if we are to continue to be the worlds caretaker or we will be the country asking for help.
    Any agency that is being government subsidize
    with grants, loans, bail outs, tax dollars, etc. should be required to buy or spend that money domestic only. Defense manufactures were required to do so for years and then we had to compete with Isreal and other countries to manufacture products for our own defense industry. Look what happened to that industry when they eliminated that clause. I was a former Materials Manager and worked in the Defense Industry for years and I along with many others lost good careers as manufacturing was phased out in the U.S. and our companies moved abroad.
    The news this am said that Ford quit manufacturing the Ford Victoria, which is why they went to Austrailia to look at their design that “might” be produced in the U.S. We put men on the moon, I’m sure we could design and produce our own car that will get the job done for PD’s here in the U.S.
    I firmly believe that if U.S. Police Chiefs organizations in the U.S. got together to design & purchase cars, Detroit could produce one that will fit our needs if they have a large enough committment. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that.

  23. KK says:

    It is fascinating that when people are calling for American autos, they think GM or Ford. Yet, the vehicles manufactured by American plants of Japanese Auto makers have a higher concentration of domestically produced (meaning USA)parts than the so called domestics.
    To support American jobs, we need to buying Toyotas and Hondas.

  24. Anonymous says:

    2:25. If the cars from Australia are just as good and cheaper, should Los Angeles buy them?
    I was hoping Ron kaye would show some responsible journalism but am dissappointed yet again. He is a complete demagogue who will argue against any position without any type of coherence.
    So, if DWP were to buy cheap solar panels from China he would complain about buying from foreigners ( Ron is a poorer version of Lou Dobbs). Yet, if they bought them from American manufacturers he would say its too expensive.
    Ron is a bit of a phony as well. He talks of saving LA but wants the valley to secede.
    He talks about saving tax dollars, but the person who helped create this blog, and is Rons best friend, is Doug Dowie, who was the biggest rip off artist in LA history.
    Be very careful of fake populists like Ron kaye.

  25. Jame McCuen says:

    Actually there is a long interesting story about this car.
    First an interesting tidbit. The new very popular 2010 Chevy Camaro is based on a holden platfom and assembled in Canada. Up through this year, GM owned Holden.
    In the 80′s when GM went full scale to Front Wheel drive, they relied on Holden in the 1990′s to help them with the next generation of rear wheel drive cars like the Cadillac CTS and the Pontiac G8. These are world class competitive vehicles. The Pontiac G8 can hold its own against any import and in fact is what this Police car is based on!
    To me, many of the GM front mid-size and full-size rear drive vehicle are at least decade and a half out of date. I went to a GM drive event a few years ago and felt like I was in a 20 year old car when I drove a Monte Carlo – the climate controls, the fit and finsh, the plastic. I just couldn’t believe that they could put this car on the market.
    As GM merges from bankruptcy and is now owned by the taxpayers, the only bright spot of GM are the cars that were developed or based on European subsidiaries such as Holden and Opel. Saturn had some nice Opel-based vehicles. But Saturn and Pontiac are now history.
    GM now longer owns these companies, but they should have some sort of agreement with them. If not, GM doesn’t stand a chance and all the Bush – Obama money will melt away.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Bratton wants Beck. And Bratton gets what Bratton wants!

  27. El Quixotian says:

    Many here may argue that emphasis on American (mostly*) made is crucial, but even those who believe in the economic ideal of a global economy should insist on a level playing field. And when politicians may have financial interests offshore, muddled enough so as to be merely shadows in terms of ethics considerations and recusemnet, then it’s appropriate for demagogues and iconoclasts alike to shine some light on the issue.
    *e.g. Air Force Tanker options of Airbus/Northrop-Grumman assembling big European parts in Alabama vs. Boeing assembling small Japanese parts in Washington and Kansas.

  28. James McCuen says:

    I would like to see the US retain its manufacturing and engineering leadership. And I agree that trade is far from fair.
    That being said, GM is a textbook case of a bloated mis-managed company that wrote its own obituary only to be revived by government intervention.
    Many people blame the UAW. I don’t. I blame the lame Executives who drove this company into the ground. If you look at costs alone, consumers prefer import cars even when the cost advantage is taken out. And the GM-Toyota UAW made Corolla, Matrix, and Pontiac Vibe, had extremely high build quality.
    GM didn’t make the right investments and decisions until it was very late in the game.
    Despite that, I would like to see a renaissance of American engineering and manufacturing return. I can dream, can’t I?

  29. Anonymous says:

    “I would like to see the US retain its manufacturing and engineering leadership. And I agree that trade is far from fair.”
    Don’t you mean get it back? We lost our leadership years ago. I blame our education system and our greedy stockholders who only care about the dollar, not the good our country. They are dismantling the U.S. bit by bit and selling us off to the highest investor. Europe is way ahead of us in R & D. because it is much too expensive hear and our priorities are screwed up. We need to search hard for the “Made in the USA” label. We need to get busy and make some big changes.

  30. Anonymous says:

    “I would like to see the US retain its manufacturing and engineering leadership. And I agree that trade is far from fair.”
    Don’t you mean get it back? We lost our leadership years ago. I blame our education system and our greedy stockholders who only care about the dollar,and care less about the good of our country. They are dismantling the U.S. bit by bit and selling us off to the highest investor. Or, moving off shore for the cheapest labor. Europe is way ahead of us in R & D. because it is much too expensive here, and our priorities are screwed up. We have to search hard for the “Made in the USA” label. We need to get busy and make some big changes.

  31. Undocumented American says:

    “Back in the spring, LAPD Chief Bill Bratton took Chief of Detectives Charlie Beck with him on a trip halfway around the world…”
    “Beck, now a near certainty to be named Bratton’s successor on Monday,…”
    “Insiders wonder what is really up and, most of all, whether Bratton’s choice of Beck,… is good for the LAPD and the city.”
    You called it Ron. Right on the money.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Bratton’s choice of Beck is good for Bratton.

  33. Anonymous says:

    So the Ford Crown Victoria, which was assembled in Canada, might be replaced at the LAPD by GM’s Chevrolet ‘badged’ Pontiac G8, assembled in Australia.
    So Canadian auto workers lose out to their Aussie cousins. This is a problem for us in the US?
    As a previous poster mentions if you want a car “made in America” then you ought to be pressing for Toyota to come up with a vehicle for law enforcement.

  34. Sgt Spam says:

    If you get the chance to have a close look at this Aussie Commodore you will see it it a very well made unit.
    I thought at the time the fit and finish and overall build quality was superior to any that GM had offered here.
    Plus, it is a lighter vehicle by a strong margin and with the 350ci (5.7L) motor, with LPG option, it comes with plus rear wheel drive, it it sure to be an economical performer.
    Now it’s time to get sensible: So what if the car is Aussie made? it’s made for us, to our specifications and the price seems right, though the Aussie dollar may actually hit parity with ours next year, eroding some of the bargain that these cars represent.
    lastly, given that we’ll need as many as 40,000 of these cars per year nationally, it is a very good prospect that they can eventually be built here due to the fact that cars already on sale here are based on Holden DNA.
    Holden is now bigger than GM and is a finiancial and creative lifeline in these troubled times.
    Both countries are similar, as are the police and what they do.
    If the Commodore is the patrol and pursuit vehicle of choice for most Aussie PD,s it’s for a reason and we should avail ouselves of the benefits of this.
    Yes, it would be nice to have a greater American input ito the vehicles but they seem to be the best thing going just now so we should be glad we are not buying Fiat’s or silly little front wheel drive Japanese cars.

  35. Dewey Denise says:

    You look like a professional. Attractive blog and great writing skills.

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