As this issue of the Star & Shield goes to print, it is unknown whether Jim McDonnell will be given another four years as sheriff of Los Angeles, or if Alex Villanueva will have accomplished an amazing feat of ousting an incumbent sheriff. But what we do know is regardless of who wins, change is desperately needed in the Sheriff’s Department.
If McDonnell wins, he needs to wake up and face reality. The reality is that he had some significant shortcomings in his first four years. Recruitment is not moving in the right direction, regardless of what Department executives are telling him. Morale is not high, and PPOA’s morale study was not just disgruntled employees speaking out. Low morale is a legitimate problem that has gone unfixed mostly because the Department has refused to acknowledge its existence. The Department does not have a strong relationship with the communities it serves. Most importantly, and what I believe was McDonnell’s biggest failure, he listened to the wrong people and ignored warnings from those who were trying to help him succeed. Sound familiar? It should. Just a few short years ago, another sheriff, Lee Baca, made the same mistake, and it cost him more than just a re-election. If McDonnell is fortunate to hold onto his job, it will be by the narrowest of margins. The first thing he should do is reflect on what went wrong during his first four years (admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery!) and identify those who can help him fix these problems. He needs to surround himself with executives who are not “yes” men (and women) and look for true leaders who are not afraid to stand up and express an unpopular view. The Sheriff can then make informed decisions with all the opinions and facts in front of him. The “emperor has no clothes” climate has to change, and McDonnell has to empower those who are willing to tell him that not all is right in the ivory tower.
If Villanueva wins, he needs to institute change, but not just for the sake of change or vengeance. He needs to select his team carefully and put people in place who have the experience and leadership skills to help him succeed. He needs to hone his skills in both identifying the chameleons in his camp and finding the true leaders who possess character and integrity. If he doesn’t, he will find himself in the same predicament past sheriffs have found themselves in. He often talks about his courage to stand up against wrongdoing and speak out even when it’s unpopular. He needs to surround himself with those who have the same attitude. He also needs to address the organizational problems that have yet to be addressed, such as recruitment and fairness in the promotion process. If all this sounds eerily like what I just said about McDonnell, it’s because it is. It doesn’t matter who the sheriff is. What matters is what that person does to better the Department. It is the difference between success and failure, high morale and low morale, high and low crime rates, etc.
I hope that whoever our sheriff is for the next four years takes this Department in a different direction than where we have been going. We need a change in direction, and the sheriff must be willing to take command and steer the ship.
I am grateful to the many retirees and active County employees who have sent me emails about their difficulties with York and their disability medical treatments. After meeting with York and the County CEO representatives, we have seen a marked improvement in getting employees the treatment they need. I am grateful to the York management as well as the CEO’s office for addressing our concerns. We know this is not a short-term solution, so we have scheduled regular meetings with York management and the CEO representatives to ensure that injured workers receive proper care and treatment. Please continue to send me emails of your experiences with York, both good and bad, so I can convey them to the York managers.
STEER CLEAR: PPOA HOLIDAY FREE RIDE PROGRAM
As we approach the holidays, we want our members to enjoy this joyous time with their family and friends. Unfortunately, some will make the bad decision to drive while intoxicated, which is something that happens frequently around this time every year. The PPOA Board of Directors discussed whether this “free ride” program was a wise decision. Was this a proper way to spend dues money? How much does PPOA spend defending members involved in alcohol-related incidents? Should individuals be solely responsible for their bad decisions? Are we encouraging members to drink, knowing they can get a free ride home? All of these are legitimate questions. The cost wasn’t really an issue since PPOA will likely save money in legal fees. But the question about whether we “encourage bad behavior” through this program was a major concern. We hope that our members will not look at this program as an opportunity to be abusive and irresponsible. We hope that our members will do the exact opposite. If you find yourself in a situation where you have had too much to drink and need a ride home, call Uber or Lyft and submit your receipt to us for reimbursement (details of program can be found on page 25). This program is intended for those who should not be driving after drinking, not for those wanting a free ride to dinner, so please do not abuse this program. It is a great program, and we do not want to have to close it because of abuse.
PEACE OFFICERS’ MEMORIAL LICENSE PLATES — RESERVE YOURS TODAY
We have all seen the personalized license plates for firefighters, Purple Heart recipients, breast cancer and even Snoopy. Proceeds from purchasing these specialized plates benefit various nonprofit organizations. The California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation (CPOMF) is embarking on a specialized plate dedicated to peace officers who made the ultimate sacrifice. PPOA’s executive director, Wayne Quint, is also the executive director for CPOMF, and he and all of us on the CPOMF Board of Directors are passionate about this project. The revenue from these specialized plates will benefit CPOMF and support its efforts to continue to honor fallen officers. Some cops are concerned about identifying themselves as police officers, and this was a concern for CPOMF as well. The design of the plate is subtle, yet still recognizable to those who support the tribute to our fallen officers. I encourage all of you to read about this specialized plate on page 24. If you are interested in getting a specialized plate, please sign up and pledge to purchase one today. CPOMF is required to sell a specific number of plates in order to receive benefits from sale, so please tell your friends and supporters of fallen officers.