Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Got Off The Bus - Watching it Roll

I am that old, cranky, disgruntled cop, heading out the same door I have seen so many over the years walk through. I never saw myself as being that guy. I often wondered why so many, who during the majority of their careers, were upbeat, hard working, positive officers, suddenly became disgruntled and angry. I get it now. I'm that guy.

I enjoyed my career in law enforcement. That is, until I got near the end. The memories I take away from the job are for the most part positive ones. The friendships and camaraderie built over the years will be with me forever. The loss of friends from disease, violence and accidents have taken their toll. But the biggest contributor to the anger and frustrations leading to me being disgruntled is the administration of the San Diego Police Department. Take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I am admittedly disgruntled and some would say I have an ax to grind. But I am not fearful of the brass and being retired no longer have to hold my tongue and smile at the thin skinned administrators who believe because they have been elevated to a higher rank they are somehow smarter or more important than everyone else.

In my almost 33 years, I have worked for five chiefs, countless captains, lieutenants and sergeants. I have worked for some outstanding, dedicated professionals who were true leaders. They were ethical, honest, caring professionals who knew their craft and were tough disciplinarians, yet compassionate individuals. They were experienced, knowledgeable, tenured officers who spent time in investigations, patrol and the all important but miserable administrative jobs. They learned from doing and were not afraid to buck the status quo and challenge when things were not as they should be. They were leaders who earned the respect of the troops. They cared about their own integrity and that of their employees and what toll a bad apple among the ranks would cause. You knew there were activities that would result in certain termination. Solicit a prostitute and you were fired. Associate with known felons, gang members or drug dealers  or commit a crime of moral turpitude.and you were fired. Have sex on duty and you were sure to receive a suspension at the very least. Drunk driving arrests resulted in lengthy suspensions; second offenses would result in termination. Lie or falsify reports and you are of no use to anyone and you faced certain termination. Off-Duty incidents were thoroughly investigated. Lansdowne's response to off duty incidents; "call them in and tell them to knock it off." No investigation, no discipline, no accountability. "Boys will be boys." The erosion of ethics and accountability began almost immediately.

Things were not perfect and in 25 years of being an employee advocate/representative, I often advocated for employees who got themselves into trouble. I sought fair, reasonable and equitable discipline for transgressions. When an employee was found to have been involved with a prostitute, associate with known felons, gang members or drug dealers; get arrested for drunk driving; lie or falsify a report; I would often tell them what to expect. No one would support fighting for a person involved in criminal activity after a fair and complete investigation that proved the allegation and followed the rules.

Promotions have always been a bone of contention. Subjective vs Objective; filling a "need"; nepotism; friendships; reputation; rumor; politics. All play in the promotional process. The bastardizing of the Civil Service Rules governing promotions started with Bob Burgreen and have grown even worse under Lansdowne. Lansdowne added another layer to the promotional process, outside of Civil Service; "Kiss the Ring" that you must participate in if you have any hope or desire to get promoted. Put your ethics, backbone, brain and ability to make a decision in the closet, for you are of no use to the administration if you only act with ethics; stand up to or question a directive from the chief; make a decision that is clearly thought out and in the best interest of the employee and the department; or associate with someone with whom the administration dislikes. Remember; YOU are guilty by association when it comes to me!!!!

The ability to pass over candidates repeatedly and without explanation has reached new heights with this administration. We can all think of a certain promotion (we all have one or two or more in mind) and just shake our head in bewilderment. The higher the promotion (Captain and Chief) the greater the impact to the department for passing over the most qualified and experienced candidate. Look no further than the most recent promotions to understand the direction this department is headed. The chief surrounds himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear. Tell him the truth or disagree with him and he will cast you to the furthest command; out of sight out of mind. You should have put lipstick on that pig and told him she was beautiful before telling the old man the truth or disagreeing with him. Learn to use "Extraordinary" in every conversation (worked for one) and in the face of flooding after days of heavy rain, make sure the chief hears its sunny and 72 outside.

Does anyone have faith that any one of the recently promoted chief's or captains will challenge Lansdowne and speak up against or in disagreement with ANY issue? If you do, I have some land for sale at a great price in Florida. I can show it to you after 9 PM on any night the tide is low and there is no moon.

Micro-management is not supervision and surely not leadership. Cheerleaders or not leaders. Longevity does not equal experience. Trust is earned and Respect is gained. Information is power. Speaking up is not an act of defiance. Dilbert has no doubt been in the chief's conference room. He has written extensively about the goings on on the 7th floor of Headquarters.

This department is run on fear. Captains running scenes from their offices as well as running around jumping radio calls taking command of scenes once handled by a patrol sergeant. Lieutenants rushing out to bank robberies, domestic violence calls, street robberies and taking charge, directing sergeants, officers and detectives. Captains calling detectives, directing routine investigations after reading cases in CRMS, sometimes before the sergeant has had a chance to assign the case. Chiefs showing up at hostage scenes where SRT is being deployed and telling them what window to look in and how to use a pole mirror in an attempt to get eyes on. Then countermanding the SWAT units decision to make an emergency entry. Tell tale signs the chiefs and captains don't trust anyone and are the only ones who know how and what to do. All because of fear.

Chiefs, Captains, Lieutenants calling sergeants as they respond to hot calls, demanding information before it is available. When no information is available because no one is on scene yet, they will get in their car and respond, taking charge and getting in the way. Of the current field lieutenants, how many, if any, have experience in a pro active investigative unit (outside of Vice) or worked for more than a month in investigations (Homicide, Sex Crimes, Robbery, Narcotics) at any rank? The answer is none.

The sad truth is the administration is breading a culture of "wait for the brass." This is in turn breading a bunch of supervisors who are followers, not leaders. It all starts at the top. The assistant chiefs are afraid of number one. The captains are afraid of the assistant chiefs and number one. This is pushed down to the lieutenants who are afraid. Afraid to make a decision or act and the need to be in charge (or at least look like they are). Lieutenants and Captains refuse to stand up for their people out of fear they too will suffer the consequences of the chiefs anger. The thinned skin of chief officers when someone with the audacity to speak up or challenge "The Bigger Picture" is amazing.

"The Big Picture." How many times have you heard this phrase? The problem with this phrase is the command staff only sees what it wants to see and uses this phrase to create fear and justify their actions when there is no other explanation.

"The Big Picture"??? The wrong people are in the wrong seats on the bus. The bus is headed for a cliff and there is no one capable of stopping it.


Anonymous said...

I can't stop laughing. I can only imagine what is being said on the 7th floor right now. They can no longer control you or the content of your blog. You have hit the nail on the head this time. The only leaders left are a small hand full of lieutenants, a few sergeants and a number of senior officers. I wold not give you a penny for any of the chiefs.

I will be going in the DROP soon and can't wait to get the hell out of here.

Enjoy retirement and keep writing. Can't wait to see and hear you on the 13th. It's going to be the party of all parties.

Counting Time said...

Watch your back Steve. Lansdowne, Long, Ramirez et al are vindictive and angry individuals when someone speaks out. You have kicked the hive over and pissed the queen (Lansdowne) off.

See you on the 13th. Can't wait.

Anonymous said...

The Big Picture. Boy did you get this one right. If I hear that one more time from my captain or lieutenant I am going to puke. "You need to see the big picture" is always the reply when someone questions anything around this place. Don't forget "the chiefs are not happy with you" when they hear you question or speak up about something. Remember that is told through a lieutenant or captain not from a chief. God forbid you are seen having lunch with McMillan.

I'll have lunch with you Steve. How about the 7th floor cafeteria? Landslide gets soup for lunch a lot... maybe we can be there on that day.

Anonymous said...

Re: I got off the bus..." But wait Steve, with regards to the loss of ethics, how can you leave off theft of city property, oh wait, that results in a promotion to lieutenant, or maybe round filing 1,000s of crime cases as a sergent, oh wait, ditto on the lieutenant promotion issue, or maybe taking a shot at a tranny, or assaulting a subordinate officer in front of some kids, oh wait, darnit, there goes that nasty promotional issue again. All in all, its so damn sad. The SDPD really used to be THE BEST. But alas, as all of us crusty, yet professional, knowledgeable, ethical yet disgruntled veterans bail and head off into the sunset, the department will be left with a bunch of narcissistic politicians running the show. Too bad not one of them can actually talk about a great case they once solved.

Anonymous said...

I've been on over 20 years, less than 30, and never had the pleasure of crossing paths with you Steve...How in the world did you get ahold of my journal?!! Seriously, I could've written some of this stuff. The demise of this department, and the pedal to the metal direction toward the cliff this admin is taking us is just plain sad. One wonders what the folks on the 7th floor they ponder at night what they can do to help right this sinking ship? Or do they delusionaly think they are up there doing a good job? Brass, no, you are not doing a good job. Failure is a harsh term, but it is unfortunately an accurate one.

I wish I had met ya before you left...we would have had some good stories to trade. Keep at it Steve.

Jim said...

Steve are you saying Lansdowne looks the other way at officer indiscretion? Say it isn't so. I remember an officer who beat up a neighbor when he came home and found his girlfriend next door in a loving embrace with this neighbor. If memory serves Lansdowne threw the investigation in the trash next to his desk saying it was none of the PD's business.

This department is not the one I joined in the early 80's. Once a great, proud department is now a joke. I too am so glad to have gotten out.

See you next week.

Anonymous said...

Steve you really need to see the "big picture". The Chief's really do have good things to say about you. Why not let them attend your party?

I too can't stop laughing at the thought of the chiefs huddled around their computers reading and re-reading this post. Thin skin does not begin to describe those idiots.

Can't wait for your party. I love your date too... Friday the 13th... Classic.... Is it going to be a full moon too?

Anonymous said...

Now that you're gone, they're going after Stephanie R. because she is the messanger for your party continues!

And "Jim," Landfill pushed the investigation into his round file and said the officer was only "retrieving his property (i.e., wife)."

Anonymous said...

The BIG PICTURE eludes the phony five and their ASS CLOWN boss. That phrase is used to justify their ineptness and stupidity. Don't look for current captains or chiefs at the party. They have all been told (suggested) not to attend. There will be few lieutenants in attendance also since their captains have all made suggestions to "think of the impact" and to "see the bigger picture" when it comes to associations (with Sparky).

I have less than 90 days left and can't wait to get out. The department has gone from great to pathetic. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Steve, the officers of this department will truly miss you and your truth telling. A wave of negativity, unprofessionalism and lack of respect has permeated throughout this police department since 2004. We were warned by others and we all know why....this city got what it paid for.. This once great and proud police department is nothing but a shell of its past. It is now the butt of jokes throughout the state and our own has been sad and disgusting to see it fall so far.....

Anonymous said...

Steve, you will be missed..even by those who dismiss you (secretly they wish they had the brass ones to say, do and live what you have, but will never admit it). The demise of our department is truly sad, but I still have faith others like you will continue to take a stand and get us back on the right track. We owe it to each other and the citizens. Until then just remember the "big picture" is the one hanging on a persons office wall and that picture will change for the best eventially. have a great retirement and thanks again!

Counting Like the Others said...

You hit a home run with this Steve. It has been a long time coming. Can't wait for you to write more.

See you at your party. Should be a good time.