Jorge R. Rodriguez, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief and Commanding Officer of Operations in the Valley Bureau, has spent 32 years in the organization, the last 12 in executive posts. Appointed in November 1987, he has worked the gamut — patrol, gangs, footbeats, special problems unit, detectives, and narcotics – and in divisions throughout the city: Metro, Rampart, North Hollywood, Northeast, and Southeast. Administrative assignments have ranged from Audit Division and the Rampart Corruption Task Force to Internal Affairs and D.A.R.E., and he oversaw security details for both Mayor Hahn and Mayor Villaraigosa. A little more than a decade ago, Chief Rodriguez earned an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury University.
The Woodbury program really opened up my eyes, not only to the issues that we had always experienced in the LAPD, but to individuals within other segments of corporate America. The prism I was looking through had been very small, since it was limited to the department’s perspective. Through various group projects at Woodbury, we were able to explore how the same issues were prevalent in just about any organization. We learned to listen to how other folks would handle situations within the confines of their organizations and, in doing so, we gained a sense of balance. It was a tremendous experience to go beyond what we knew as a paramilitary organization. Of course, the department’s concerns obviously are much different now than they were back when I started in 1986.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to apply classroom skills in training, developing, coaching and/or mentoring future leaders. I’ve tried to be among those leading the cultural transformation within the department. As an organization, we have become more transparent, more open and more streamlined, especially in terms of what this generation is expecting from law enforcement. One of the books I read during the program – it changed me as a professional and as a person — was Lincoln on Leadership. I still refer to the book in my meetings: I offer excerpts and I’ve recommended it to my captains, lieutenants, supervisors and so on, applying those learnings to what they do in their daily jobs. These lessons are applicable to their leadership styles, to conflict resolution, and a host of other topics that, collectively, have helped me shape the future of this organization.
The trickle-down mostly affected captains and lieutenants, who were my primary direct reports. Back in the day, a captain rarely spoke to a street-level cop; now we do. We’re much more open not only with internal communication but externally well. Accessibility has changed drastically; top-down communication no longer prevails as it once did.
Yes, I was still a lieutenant at the time I was going through the cohort. I went to campus, met with the group in the classroom and in a group project setting. All this was especially important as we addressed the huge organizational change occurring within the department, as the LAPD moved from Chief [Bernard] Parks to Chief [William] Bratton.
I was a middle manager, a lieutenant, having grown up in an organization which, at the time, had a very rigid, very paramilitary culture. I knew that at some point we had to make a change and I decided to promote, but before I promoted I knew that I wanted to expand my horizons and become more knowledgeable about certain concepts and ideas. I decided that I needed to invest in myself. Woodbury happened to be recommended by a colleague, I looked at the program, and I said “that’s what I want to do.”
The Woodbury cohort concept brought together individuals from other walks of life – and not just from law enforcement. Up to that point, our training was always delivered by another police or military organization. We hadn’t taken the time to look at corporate America, which is what the Woodbury program exposed me to. And that made me want to be a change agent within LAPD. If I’m preaching the concept, I have to be ready to do it first. We knew we had to do things differently — the old way of “my way or the highway” was not effective or efficient. That’s where additional education came in.
It was generous. My boss at the time knew what I was doing and why, and he was very supportive. Today, I support that incentive for officers to get additional education, not only for themselves as individuals and professionals but for the organization as a whole.
Obviously, my bosses are best suited to answer that question, but I absolutely believe that’s the case. We get to know our employees personally here, their backgrounds and their perspectives. My superiors knew my zeal for learning. It truly is a lifelong process. Today, I have my leadership library, which I share with subordinates, so they can become better decision-makers. In the long run, that improves the organization and the community.
That’s it — the United States Marine Corps and the LAPD. I look at this as a profession and as a career, and while that view isn’t necessarily shared by every member of the younger generation – who tend to be more educated than ever and more open to considering other paths once they’ve been in the department for a while – I’m convinced that this remains a very challenging and very rewarding career.