LAPD Chief Beck Calls for Student ‘Self Accountability’ at the Campus Safety Conference

Keynoting the Campus Safety Conference at USC, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says establishing police legitimacy and community efficacy are top priorities for campus safety departments.
Published: August 4, 2014

Speaking just days after a University of Southern California (USC) student was slain nearby, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck told more than 300 attendees gathered at the Campus Safety Conference that community cooperation with police should be the ultimate goal of school public safety officials.

“We police are in the best of times and worst of times,” noted Beck in reference to the fact that the United States has one of its lowest crime rates in recent history, yet the sheer volume of active shooter incidents on campuses continues to rise, and schools face fiscal challenges to combat the growing violence.

The sold-out Campus Safety Conference was held Thursday and Friday in conjunction with USC at the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Midtown, just across the street from the USC campus. Just a week before the event, a Chinese student, Xinran Ji, 24, was killed as he walked home from a study group late at night. Four suspects have been taken into custody.

“The big goal is convincing people to take accountability for their own safety,” he said, adding that he believes there are two ways to obtain that cooperation with students. First, he said that campus safety departments must “establish police legitimacy” so they can build “community efficacy” that will empower students to take an active role in keeping their schools safe.

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To establish police legitimacy, Beck says officers must be seen as fair and effective… not too lenient, not too harsh. “People will willingly comply for the sake of safety if you are fair,” he said.

“None of us are big enough to put a cop on every corner, not even the Los Angeles Police Department. Nor do we want to live in a country where there’s a cop on every corner,” Beck continued.

The chief says police legitimacy must be earned every day. “Be available, be honest, be transparent… you must be thought of as a reliable partner. We strive to do this at LAPD. We don’t always succeed, but we try.”

Once police cooperation is earned, Beck believes that is when the big goal of “self accountability” develops so when an active shooter or other reckless incident occurs, a campus and law enforcement will have ready partners who know how to react and communicate.”

‘The Most Difficult’ Population to Protect
But Beck admits that students are the most difficult population to protect.

“You have a population to police that is young, transient, preoccupied, not familiar with their surroundings. The absolute hardest and most difficult circumstances that I can imagine,” he said. “And it’s only through conversations with them that have to start today, before they even take the seats in their class, about the realities of their own safety and what they can do to make themselves safer.”

Beck also cited “the tremendous disparity we face between the very poor and the very rich that drive some crime that affects our campuses” as an alarming issue.

He urged attendees to “know how to communicate. Know what to expect. Discuss scenarios.  Explain the limitations [of the campus safety team’s] response and what the police response will be. Explain where students can go when an incident occurs.”

“Police work is hard. It’s not the work that is glamorized in media. It’s not always the chasing of evil. It’s putting money in the bank—putting money into that bank of trust, putting money into the bank of preparation—so when you need to draw on it, and you will, there’s something there. We don’t live in a world of ‘if.’ We live in a world of ‘when.'”

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