I have had the distinct privilege of serving as the PPOA vice president for the final years of my career, and it has been an honor serving this great organization and its members. Now, I move into retirement and start a new chapter in my life. But I will remain involved at PPOA and continue to serve the membership on the PPOA Board of Directors as the retiree representative. I want to leave you with a few final thoughts after nearly a decade of writing these (minus a couple of years when I was off the Board).
PPOA members are amazing. This Department is amazing. The citizens of Los Angeles County are amazing. Please don’t ever forget we are one team. All of us. Every Department member I have come across, from recruits to the top ranks, has had good intentions at heart. I have worked for five sheriffs, and each one thought they were truly doing the right thing. All had different methods, but all had the same goal in their hearts. The difference is how they treated people. I have seen everything from wisdom to treachery, from intelligent decision-making to completely out-of-leftfield choices. I have rallied at great decisions and some have made my skin crawl because they were made for self-centered reasons or due to paranoia for selfpreservation. There have been vindictive sheriffs and understanding sheriffs — not necessarily in that order. I have seen the rise of cronyism, the fall of cronyism and the rebirth of cronyism. Then a sort of hiatus of cronyism, then, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the king of cronyism. Again, not necessarily in that order.
(For those of you who aren’t sure …cro·ny·ism/’ krōnēizǝm//: Noun — the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.)
I will let you guess which of the five sheriffs subjected this Department to cronyism. OK, you took too long. They all did. Each, in their own belief, practiced some level of cronyism in order to reach their respective goals as sheriff. We on the outside see it as a terrible thing, and many times rightly so. It seems to get worse with paranoia, lack of confidence or a challenge to their leadership. However, cronyism, if used properly, can be a useful tool to a very limited extent by those who understand the limitations of their abilities. For example, to have a close staff member you can openly communicate with and bounce ideas off because you have served with them before may be a good thing. To grant those empowered few unfettered authority, however, may not be so good. To have cronyism be the rule rather than the very limited exception seems to show a propensity to micromanage, narcissism and the emergence of paranoia. To some, this has been their downfall and some have even landed in prison believing they were invincible.
No matter how any sheriff leads, we, as supervisors, cannot manage this way. We have seen sheriffs change overnight and the Department goes on. It will happen again someday. A future sheriff or two is likely in our ranks now. It could be a trainee at one of the stations. It could be someone you mentored last night on an arrest. Who knows? The point is, we are a transient department, always changing. Our goal should be to train the best people we can, bring them up with good morals, lead by example and realize we are all people with the same goals. Take a moment to teach what you know, rather than embarrass someone who doesn’t know what you do. Drop grudges and don’t teach people to have them. Don’t say one deputy or assignment is better than another. This attitude is childish, unhealthy to the individual and poison to the organization and our mission. This Department has been infected by some who want to crawl over the pile of bodies to reach the top and promote, rather than those who want to learn each step of the way.
We need to unite as a single entity with a single purpose. No deputy is better than another deputy. No assignment is better than another assignment. Talk to your people about how awesome it is to be any deputy sheriff, teach them to be proud every day no matter what goes on in the news and teach them that no one person defines our Department.
I have been asked what I intend to do in retirement. I am going to travel and continue to study world history a bit. Cuba is on my short list. Although I’m not a fan of Castro or what he did when he came to power, for some reason people keep sending that story to me and suggesting I visit there. Message? I dunno.
I will keep in touch with lifelong friends I have made here and I will continue to support the Department and the profession in any way I can. I want to thank all of you for reading my articles and for the thousands of emails in support. I even appreciate the one I received not in support (not a bad ratio), because it showed me you’re reading the articles.