I am Joe Walker. I am a Crime Analyst working at East L.A. Station and was elected by members to fill the PPOA Board seat left by Law Enforcement Technician (LET) Jim Blankenship’s pending retirement. I would never have run against Jim, because he was the best thing that ever happened to the PPOA Board.
Jim came on the Department more than 30 years ago and quickly got involved in PPOA negotiations. I got to know him and immediately saw that the guy had no ego or hidden agenda. He was extremely humble and low-key, but after he was appointed to the PPOA Board in the mid-’90s, he broke every PPOA record and recently became the longest-serving Board member in our history. How the heck did that happen? It happened because he did not go out of his way to make enemies, he did not make his service on the Board about promoting his own career and he perfected the fine art of being a professional member of the Department who was able to challenge our sworn brothers and sisters without much effort. Jim listened and analyzed and learned until most of the time he had far more knowledge about his actual LET job (either working the desk or doing station operations tasks) than the sworn folks who would swoop in, do the job for a couple of years and then move on. Jim, like so many of our members, stayed at job assignments much longer than our frequently transferred and promoted sworn brothers and sisters, and soon they realized he knew way more about the jobs than they did. He got things done.
One day, Jim and I were at an important PPOA meeting and he took a call on his cell. I could tell by his body language that it was someone from an operations office, somewhere, and that they were having a really hard time making a purchase or doing something that only Jim knew how to do. He very patiently tried to help this Operations Sergeant/Operations Lieutenant/Captain figure out what to do, but no matter how gently he delivered the info, it simply was not sinking in. This was before we could “remote in,” so I could tell that either Jim was going to have to tell them to wait until tomorrow when he was at the office or he would have to leave the meeting to assist his hapless officemates. If he left, it would mean our whole meeting would have to end or we would lose his valuable expertise. He somehow managed to talk his Ops guys “off the ledge,” the meeting proceeded and the next day the very small issue was resolved before his first cup of coffee had gotten cold. That was his superpower. He got things done.
Jim was Unit 621 chairman for the majority of his time on the Board, and in this leadership role he not only juggled the complex politics and big personalities of the dozens of fellow Board members and half a dozen or so Board presidents, but he also managed to do so without ticking everyone in the room off (something I have yet to master) and, amazingly, he passed through numerous election cycles without anyone running against him, or anyone running against him who had any support. Heck, I had so many close elections to the Board in my numerous campaigns that I was hugely envious of him. But he had a skill set that was very unique and elevated all of Unit 621, particularly his fellow Law Enforcement Technicians. He got things done.
We will miss Jim a lot. I miss him already. His sense of purpose, his civility and his dedication to his fellow employees on the Sheriff’s Department will never be forgotten. Our members could not have chosen a better rep on the PPOA Board since 1997, and I could not have found a better leader to admire, strive to be and have as a role model.
I found a great quote that says it all. It is by leadership expert John Maxwell, who said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”
Jim, you showed us the way.