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LAPD’s New ‘Lieutenants List’ and the ‘Club’

There is something wrong with a police promotional system that rewards so many who go to such great lengths to avoid doing police work.

by
Jack Dunphy

Bio

March 29, 2013 - 12:19 am
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Some years ago, on a warm afternoon in South-Central Los Angeles, I responded to the scene of a drive-by shooting in which a man had been killed.  Such crimes were — and remain today — sadly common in that part of town, so much so that my coworkers and I were well-practiced in the routine of preserving evidence, identifying witnesses, and all the other chores uniformed officers are expected to perform while waiting for homicide detectives to arrive.  We had completed those chores and transitioned into the standing-around phase when our watch commander arrived at the scene.

He was a newly minted lieutenant, fresh from a long stretch behind a desk at Internal Affairs, and our initial impression of him was that he was ill-prepared for the position he now occupied.  That impression was reinforced when he arrived at the crime scene bearing a notebook, inside of which he had assembled a series of checklists, one for each of the various types of incidents likely to launch him from his desk at the station and out onto the street.  That a man in his position needed these checklists at all was bad enough; worse was his apparent lack of embarrassment in so clearly demonstrating to his new subordinates his lack of experience in handling such rudimentary aspects of police work. Worse still was his failure to recognize, as he ticked off the items on his murder-scene checklist to a ticked-off veteran sergeant, that all of the steps his checklist told him to see instituted had already been completed before he arrived.

Despite our new boss’s inauspicious debut, we were willing to cut the man some slack.  It often takes some time for people who have been out of the field for an extended period to get acclimated to the pace and demands of working as a watch commander in a busy patrol division.  Alas for him — and more so for us — he never found that level of acclimation.  Though not uneducated, he was all but ignorant when it came to the realities of police work as it’s actually practiced.  Worse, he could not make a decision without consulting some higher-up, even as he ignored the advice offered by sergeants far more experienced than he. In short, he was not a leader.

How, we wondered, had the Los Angeles Police Department allowed this man a) to be hired in the first place, b) to be promoted to lieutenant, and c) to be placed in a position for which he was so manifestly unqualified?  The answer is a familiar one to L.A. cops and indeed to cops everywhere: he was a member of the Club.

I have written of the Club before, that informal society of people deemed fit for advancement into the upper levels of LAPD management.  (As the reader has perhaps already guessed, I am not, nor have I ever aspired to be, a member.)  Qualifications for admission are simple: Memorize the slogans and buzzwords in vogue among those already admitted, secure administrative jobs that offer contact with those already admitted and where exposure to physical dangers and personnel complaints are at a minimum, and, most important of all, avoid working patrol, most especially in those parts of town where crime is highest and the exposure to danger and personnel complaints is greatest.

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All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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As I see the new promotional lists, I am pleased that officers have the opportunity to progress in the department. However, the quality of these lists, saddens and angers me. This is because some, if not most, of these personnel have list touch with what a leader really is.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Chesty" Puller was the prototypical Marine, who rose from private to lieutenant general. One day a young lieutenant was driving his jeep beside a muddy field where Marines were training. The mud was so thick that it pulled the boot off a young grunt. The poor guy couldn't bend down enough to tie it because of his 80-pound pack.
The lieutenant saw his plight, jumped down into the mud ruining his spit-shined boots, bent down, and retied the man's boot. The Marine said, "Gee, thanks sir, that's just what Colonel Puller would have done." Of course, that compliment made the lieutenant's whole week.
Puller was the exception--someone who rises to high rank but remains dedicated to the people he is responsible for, rather than kissing up to those over him. Regrettably, he was a rare exception.
There are two kinds of organizations: One is like a coffee cup--the cream rises to the top. The other is like a septic tank--the largest chunks rise to the top. It's good to know which type you're in.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This has been the case with too many administrators being promoted. Just read the list of all the buddies Beck promoted who don't have field experience. Debbie McCarthy? and her husband and the rest who served with Beck on LAPRA board. Beck promoted them of ALL. The only one who the cops like is Villegas in the Valley. Put out the list of all the idiot P3's females Beck is allowing to promote. ITS ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW. Why did Capt. Chamberlain get transfered and not demoted like other Capts because of the Officer Perry lawsuit? Why didn't Sgt. Curtis not get into trouble at Newton after the Officer Bobby Hill lawsuit win? Beck has tarnished the badge. He's taken LAPD back to the old days cause no one respects him. Poor guys out in the field. They kick butt keeping crime down only to get slammed by the idiots who run the dept. How many Chief's have major beefs in their file and never got reprimanded???
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A field commander or desk commander arriving on a major crime scene verifying procedural policies have been implemented thoroughly, checklist or not, is somehow a confirmation of his ignorance and qualifications?

From my experience we on occasion, for some major crimes, had a DA or Assistant DA, Dectective Division Commander or an assistant along with our normal field commanders arrive on-scene and immediately verify procedural policies had been precisely and thoroughly carried out by assigned and dispatched officers arriving initially on-scene.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A long time ago, I once considered moving to L.A. and applying for the police department. Now I'm glad that I didn't follow up on that idea.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The City continues to pay out millions on a monthly basis for leadership failures (Officer Perry this week; $1.2 million. Last week, two lesbian officers; $1.25 million). Why would anyone believe this list, or any other promotional list would be contrary to decades past?

When you have five-year Police Officer II's at the LAPD with more field time than their lieutenants and some of their captains, you're going to have very significant problems, both internally and with the community (courts, as well).

There are some great people on the lieutenant's list, but as written, there are some real "tools" on there, as well.

The issue here is the subjective nature of dozens of different promotional boards scoring hundreds of different promotional candidates and attempting to "objectively rate" them. It's a fool's errand.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thats an inherent problem for any large law enforment department or agency as well as any large corporation in the private sector. A lesson I learned early on in life was, too come to work everyday and do what you get paid to do, to the best of your abilities and leave the bureacrats and their bureaucracy behind you. Far less stress and complaining that way! Now if climbing the wealth and power game, is ones mission, then be prepared to play the game everyday and -- the consequences wherever they fall.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Promotional lists have looked like this since I saw my first one as a student worker way, way, way back in 1968. Fortunately, we've had some real leaders kick down the door to the clubhouse and promote, dispite the odds. They met the challenge, succeeded, and went on to mentor subordinates and make positive contributions to the organization. They didn't sit by and whine, either. And they found no need to hide behind a pseudonym.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Promotional lists have looked like this since I read my first one when I was a student worker way, way, way back in 1968. It has always been this way. Fortunately, we've seen some true leaders kick down the door to the clubhouse and promote, in spite of the odds against them. And they didn't whine. They took on the challenge and they made positive contributions. And they found no need to hide behind a pseudonym.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Kudos to those who kicked down the door to the clubhouse, but as was the case back then, people like that are vastly outnumbered by the pogues. Also, I take issue with your characterization of my reporting and commentary as whining. I've been on the job for 30 years and writing about it for 13, enjoying a productive career all the while. I, too, have mentored subordinates, but I've chafed the hides of three chiefs and a good many others in the command staff along the way. How deeply would I have been buried if these people knew who I was? And while we're talking of hiding behind pseudonyms, I assume your real name isn't 4mr10D.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think maybe the "whining" inference comes from your somewhat consistantly complaining on here about the system as you view it to be rightly or wrongly.

"I've chafed the hides of three chiefs and a good many others in the command staff along the way."

That seems to be centric to the few postings I've read from you. Hope you can let it all go, putting it behind you, when you decide to retire!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The status quo must change!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Everybody hates a brownnoser as a boss. He will never have your back. He will only selfishly look out for himself.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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