LAPD's New 'Lieutenants List' and the 'Club'

The lieutenant I describe above studiously observed all of these rules, spending little time in patrol as a police officer or as a sergeant, none of it in a fast-paced division.  He then got his position at Internal Affairs, where he passed judgment on officers doing the work he himself had made a career of avoiding.  Thus prepared, he was promoted and duly inflicted on us, if only until those members of the Club above him in the chain of command came to realize they had erred in admitting him.  He was then moved here and there within the department like an old piece of office furniture until, to the regret of no one who had worked for him, he retired.

I was reminded of him recently with the publication of the latest lieutenants list, the roster of those next to be admitted into the Club. In Band 1 of the list, with a score of 104, are four men, the four sergeants or detective supervisors found most suitable for a position as a watch commander at one of the LAPD’s 21 patrol divisions.  None of the four are currently working patrol, and in the case of one of them, it’s been at least ten years since he’s seen the inside of a black-and-white.

In the next band, with a score of 103, are 16 men and women, only five of whom are working patrol divisions, none at any of the five divisions that cover South-Central L.A. In Band 3, with a score of 102, are 18 sergeants and detectives, seven of whom currently work at a patrol station, and among them is only one who works in South-Central.

Of the top 80 finishers in the examination process for lieutenant, i.e., those with the best chance of actually being promoted in the next two years, only 35 currently work patrol or divisional detectives, and of those just six work in South-Central L.A.  Most of the rest work in office jobs far removed from the type of police work done by the men and women they will soon be asked to lead.  In fact, four of the top 20 and 14 of the top 80 candidates currently work in some capacity at Internal Affairs, which we might call the Club’s headquarters.

None of this is to demean any of these soon-to-be lieutenants. They have taken note of the path to promotion and learned the requirements for admission into the Club, and they have ordered their careers in such a manner as to fulfill those requirements.  But in so doing they have made themselves remote from the hazards attendant to real police work and the experiences of the men and women they will be supervising upon their promotion.

There is something wrong with a police promotional system that rewards so many who go to such great lengths to avoid doing police work.  The best we can hope for is that none of them turns out to be as incompetent as the lieutenant described above, though some number of them probably will be.  I pray I can finish my career without having to work for any of them.