January 2010

Law Abiding

For Cindy Beck, wife of the Los Angeles Police Department’s new chief, blazing a trail is all in a day’s work


cindy beck, lapd Photo by Alex Hoerner

Nothing fazes Cindy Beck, including the fact that she was fixed up with husband Charlie—now the LAPD’s highest-ranking officer—by a prostitute. Beck was working in receiving at the Sybil Brand Institute for Women in East L.A. when a male Hollywood patrol officer brought in “a working girl,” who remarked, “Hey, you two would make a cute couple. You should go out with him.” Then a feisty 24, Beck replied, “But he just arrested you!”

“Yeah,” said the prostitute, “but he’s a really nice guy.”

It also didn’t hurt that Beck thought Charlie looked like Tom Selleck...so she invited him over for dinner. That was 1983. Three children (one from her previous marriage), 15 Arabian horses and an undisclosed number of rescue dogs, cats and rabbits later, the couple has logged 24 years of marriage.

So Beck, now 51 and a retired L.A. County sheriff’s deputy, isn’t unduly worried about the challenges of her husband’s job as overseer of L.A.’s finest.

Beck’s approach comes from “making practical choices.” Growing up in Hacienda Heights, she spent most of her time playing with her dogs and riding horses in Turnbull Canyon. “I wanted to be a horse trainer,” she says, but realized the field wasn’t particularly secure. Switching gears, she received her license in vocational nursing at Mt. San Antonio College. A short marriage that produced a daughter showed her nursing wouldn’t cut it financially either. So she joined the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

“It offered good benefits and stability,” she says. “And I had no problem with shooting a gun.”

That said, over her 15 years as an officer at Sybil Brand, as well as out of the Walnut, Lakewood and Norwalk stations, the athletic, five-foot-eight blonde never had to pull the trigger (actually earning an award for commendable restraint), although she has gone “toe-to-toe” with more than her share of drug dealers, drunk drivers, crooks and gangbangers.

Beck’s work proved rewarding, but to this animal lover, nothing compared to the work being done by the department’s dog handlers. At the time, “no females had worked with the dogs, but that’s what I wanted,” she says. “I convinced the higher-ups that I was good with animals.”

As the first woman dog handler in L.A. County Sheriff’s Department history, her first assignment was with an “unworkable and timid” Belgian Malinois named Blitz. “We clicked,” she says. “We found drugs and money like crazy.”

Ever modest, Beck shrugs off her accomplishments. What gets her beaming is the mention that she served as a surrogate for her sister- and brother-in-law’s baby. “Seeing Charlie’s sister struggle through years of trying to have a child and trying to adopt broke my heart,” she says. “So we had her egg implanted in me. I figured, ‘It’s only nine months.’ ” She is a proud aunt to Carly, a student at Cal State Fullerton.

Beck now spends time on the couple’s two-acre ranch in Walnut, training her horses and enjoying her grown children—Megan, also a student at Cal State Fullerton, and Brandi and Martin, both LAPD officers.

True to form, she doesn’t fret that the demands of Charlie’s new job keep him away much of the time. “He was three years from retirement, and we were looking forward to lots of downtime,” she says. “But Charlie is an asset to the community…The city needs him.”