Retired LAPD Captain Joins Alumnae Leadership Conference
This is the third of nine in a series of Q&As with College of the Liberal Arts alumnae who will be participating in Penn State Women: Leaders of Today and Tomorrow. The event, scheduled for Oct. 25-26, will bring together leaders from the finance, technology and business fields for a panel discussion and one-on-one meetings with students from all majors across the University.
Nancy Lauer’s career in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) spanned nearly three decades before she retired as an area commanding officer (captain III). Earlier in her career, Lauer served as the commanding officer of the Criminal Gang and Homicide Division, leading a team of 80 experienced homicide detectives and police officers tasked with investigating murders and reducing gang violence in South Central Los Angeles.
What skills would you look for in identifying a potential leader?
When identifying leaders I look for individuals whose daily actions demonstrate support for the department's core values. Loyalty, a positive attitude, and a willingness to consistently go the extra mile for the team are a must. There is no substitute for hard work. I remain aware of the top producers. These are the employees who will be tapped for more complex assignments and opportunities to lead.
How were you able to utilize your liberal arts background during your career?
The diverse liberal arts curriculum at Penn State provided a solid base from which to launch my career. It enhanced my ability to communicate effectively, build partnerships, assess complex information, and develop thoughtful solutions to challenging community problems.
What advice would you give to female students interested in law enforcement?
For those just getting started: To be successful in law enforcement you must genuinely care about people and have a passion for serving the community. Don't sabotage yourself by posting inappropriate content on social media, using drugs or drinking excessively. Maintain good credit. Dress conservatively during interviews and subsequent meetings with your supervisors. Work hard and remain focused on the mission. It's important to be a good follower if you ultimately aspire to be the boss!
What activities did you participate in early in your career and/or as a student that helped prepare you for leadership?
I was fortunate throughout my career to connect with colleagues and mentors who provided invaluable advice and support. I owe much of my success to their kindness. A series of diverse assignments, each with progressively more responsibility, helped prepare me for leadership roles on the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
My career on the LAPD included a wide variety of assignments. It began with uniformed police officer duties in the most violent part of the city (South Central Los Angeles), followed by assignments to a plain clothes crime suppression unit, a police policy research team, new recruit training, and community relations. At the rank of sergeant, my assignments included supervisor of patrol officers, internal affairs investigator, and adjutant to a senior captain. As a lieutenant, I supervised patrol sergeants and patrol officers, and also enjoyed deployments as the chief's governmental liaison, and the officer-in-charge of the chief's special projects unit.
During this period, I was part of police operations during the visit of Pope John Paul II, the Los Angeles riots, the Democratic National Convention, and a host of demonstrations, sporting events, and other major occurrences.
My assignments as a captain included uniformed patrol commands in Southeast and Southwest Divisions in South Central Los Angeles, specialized assignments in West Traffic Division and Criminal Gang and Homicide Division, and area commanding officer of the Harbor Division
As a traffic captain I was responsible for the investigation of all traffic collisions and traffic related crimes for the west side of the city of Los Angeles, an area of 124 square miles and a population of over 840,000 residents. I created and implemented the strategic enforcement initiative largely responsible for reducing traffic collisions in all accident categories for three consecutive years. Additional duties included development of the traffic plan for several United States presidential visits in coordination with our partners at the Secret Service, FBI, and Department of Transportation.
While assigned to West Traffic Division, I founded the Traffic Assistant Scene Investigator (TASI) course of study for LAPD's cadets, ages 13-20 years old. Cadets received instruction in traffic safety, responsible driving, and traffic investigations. Since its inception, over 400 cadets have been TASI certified.
As the commanding officer of the Criminal Gang and Homicide Division (CGHD), I led a team of 80 experienced homicide detectives and police officers tasked with investigating murders and reducing gang violence in South Central Los Angeles. Our partners included the FBI, ATF, and a number of victim's advocacy groups. While at CGHD I conceived of and launched the department's Homicide Library in partnership with the FBI.
As an area commanding officer (captain III) on the LAPD, I was responsible for all aspects of police operations in Harbor Division, one of the city's 21 geographic areas (similar to a precinct). Harbor Area encompassed 25 square miles and had a population of over 175,000. I provided leadership and guidance to 285 patrol, detective and civilian personnel, as well as our reserve officers, cadets, and community volunteers.
While my activities varied significantly from day to day, the priorities were reducing part one crime by developing and implementing effective crime fighting strategies, and building strong community partnerships through ongoing outreach. Additionally, I assumed command at major incidents such as barricaded suspects, homicide scenes, and officer-involved shootings.
As an area captain at the time of my retirement, I ranked among the top 1 percent of LAPD's more than 9,800 sworn personnel.
Additional information about the LAPD and a career in law enforcement may be found on the department's website at lapdonline.org.