Hello crime fighters, today I want to answer the question: What is an LAPD Senior Lead Officer or SLO? Is he or she a community leader, a crime strategist, a public relations officer, a problem solver, a training officer, a street cop, an innovator, a youth developer, a program director, an investigator, a liaison? In fact, a SLO is all of those things. The Los Angeles Police Department is 10,000 sworn strong with over 4000 holding the civil service rank of Police Officer. There are even over 200 officers who hold the rank and position of Police Officer 3+1, however, there are only less than 150 SLOs.
In order to really get a perspective, I need to go into a little detail of how LAPD is organized. The City is divided into four bureaus: Central, South, West and Valley. Each of those Bureaus is divided into Areas, commonly known as divisions such as North Hollywood Division. Each LAPD Area was divided into patrol beats in the 1960’s and they are called Basic Cars. This concept, devised by then LAPD Chief Ed Davis, divided LAPD Areas into identified communities and assigned patrol officers to work each Basic Car on a semi-permanent basis to achieve consistency and familiarity by the officers and the communities. While these Basic Cars are not always perfect in defining communities, they represent the basic deployment plan for the Department.
In each Basic Car, a senior Police Officer 3 (two chevron training officer) was selected to be the senior officer of the car. They were given a bonus position (hence the “+1”) and tasked with obtaining and maintaining a deep understanding of the communities within the Basic Car, building relationships within the car boundaries, and keeping the officers working the car and the Area leadership (captains, watch commanders and sergeants) apprised of crime and quality of life problems within the car, and training, guiding and providing information and support to the officers working the car so they can be effective each shift.
Our North Hollywood SLOs perform this mission each time they come to work. In addition, they are tasked with working with detectives to solve crimes, working with our vice, narcotics and gang units to develop intelligence and focus the enforcement efforts of those specialized units, develop crime fighting strategies for their Basic Car crime problems and liaising with other entities such as the City Attorney Neighborhood Prosecutor, other City, County, State, Federal, LAPD and NGO resources to solve long term problems of blight, crime and traffic.
That is a pretty hefty job. The SLOs are expected to obtain information from crime reports, detectives, community groups and individuals and then prioritize and seek resources to develop strategies. Their specialty is developing partnerships among community members as well as government and non-government resources to solve these problems.
Now, full disclosure here. I was a SLO for 5 ½ years in Devonshire Division so I have more than a passing knowledge of what SLOs do and what is expected of them, both by the command (captains) and the community. Therefore, I feel, based on my experience, it is important to define what a SLO is NOT.
A SLO is not a dispatcher. Therefore, if you have you SLOs cell phone number, it is not a key to faster police response. Police response is dictated by a prioritization policy at Communications Division to ensure that the entire community is served. If you need emergency police response, call 9-1-1. If you need non-emergency response, please call 877-ASK-LAPD.
That leads me to my next point, your SLO is not accessible 24/7. He or she works four, 10 hour shifts each week. Unlike patrol officers, their start times each shift may vary considerably depending on the current situation in their car or, quite frankly, my direction as the captain as to the needs of the command. My expectation is that every SLO contact every person in their car that reaches out, however, I also expect them to do so based on prioritization of the problems at any given time. Bottom line – be patient…and persistent. Even SLOs can be overwhelmed from time to time and can lose track of a contact.
Next, SLOs are not anyone’s “personal shopper coppers.” While there is no doubt that certain organizations and individuals create a larger footprint in any division based on their size, activity and current problem and, based on that, may have more potential need of police resources or more consistent contact with the Police Department or SLO. It is my expectation that each SLO provide service fairly to each community problem based on the severity of the problem, not on who is calling or meeting with them. That does not in any way, undercut the importance of you or your organization having a strong, on-going relationship with your SLO. This relationship allows for robust communication and an awareness of the SLO as to community resources and the severity of the various problems in the car and can allow the SLO to discover connections between problems in order to determine sound strategies.
A SLO is a liaison with other entities but does not possess extraordinary authority to compel another agency to work on a problem. My SLOs have excellent relationships with a wide variety of government and non-government (NGO) people. However, those folks have their own bosses and their own prioritization system. That’s where you come in. If you are not satisfied with the speed or efficiency with which a problem is being dealt with, please, we ask you, contact the management of that agency and make your thoughts known as a constituent. In the City, we all work for the elected officials, either the Mayor, or City Attorney and we all get our funding from the City Council. The aforementioned Council also makes laws and policies for the City (known mostly as ordinances). Our elected City officials are the primary form of accountability for all City services as our County, School, State and Federal elected officials are over their agencies. All elected officials ultimately work for us, the voter. There are a wide array of Internet resources to find the right elected official to contact.
Each one of my SLOs is a very special and talented officer. They have experience, wisdom, communication skills, leadership qualities and a commitment to improve their Basic Car. In short, they have ownership of that community.
When I talk about partnership with a SLO, I am not talking about establishing a “Complaint Department.” I need every member of every community to be committed to safety and order. I need you to take to heart the crime information and prevention tips and act on them, to build relationships within your community, share crime information, and actively work to reject disorder in our communities.
Yes, my SLOs are extraordinary but, faced with the current challenges of justice in California, of prison realignment, decriminalization, and the growing leadership direction that criminals are better rehabilitated in our communities rather than safely kept from doing us further harm, they need your help. I ask you to get involved; come to your neighborhood watch meeting or start one in your neighborhood. Share what you learn with the other groups you are affiliated with: PTA, faith based, youth mentoring, business and trade, friends and loved-ones. Join the online discussions and sharing in your community. Contact your elected leaders and discuss your experiences with them and make your local issues important. Report graffiti to 3-1-1, call about street lights that are burned out and bulky items that clog your sidewalks and alleys and practice safe driving habits.
If you need help with this action, well…reach out to your SLO.
Until next time, be safe! - DG