If there’s one thing Garden Grove PD’s Lt. Carl Whitney has learned over his 25 years in law enforcement, it’s the importance of treating people with respect.
“I’ve learned over my career that you can never lose respect for the people you work with or the people you serve,” said Whitney, who is the new lieutenant in charge of the agency’s Professional Standards division, as well as the new public information officer.
As the new Professional Standards lieutenant, Whitney is responsible for overseeing hiring, background investigations, Internal Affairs and keeping the agency up to date with training. As PIO, he is the liaison between the agency and the media — and the public.
Whitney didn’t originally plan to become a police officer – he had his mind set on becoming an attorney – but after attending a career seminar when he was in high school and signing up to become an explorer with the Anaheim Police Department, he “just fell in love with the job.” He was an explorer from 1985 until 1989.
He abandoned his dream of becoming an attorney and decided he wanted to become a police officer when he turned 21.
Rising through the ranks in the explorer program, Whitney became a cadet in 1989. In 1991, he entered the sheriff’s academy and by January 1992, he was a full-time police officer at the Garden Grove PD.
Whitney has worked as a motor officer, a traffic sergeant, patrol officer, field training officer, on the Career Criminal Apprehension Team, as a property crimes detective, felony assault detective and homicide detective, among other positions.
“I love my job,” said Whitney.
A sense of teamwork is another key component of the job for Whitney. In 2004, he was lead homicide detective for a drive-by shooting that left one victim dead and another injured. There were no witnesses. The case developed from virtually no information to the involvement of more than 150 officers and an investigation of gang activity.
“It culminated with the arrest of 14 people,” Whitney said. “It was pretty rewarding.”
With the help of the gang unit, crimes against persons and many others, the investigators were able to find the murder weapon hidden under a lemon tree in Riverside.
“You take all these moving parts and you have to be the coach,” Whitney said. “Nobody can do this alone.”
Teamwork once again proved helpful when Whitney was a detectives sergeant overseeing property crimes. He and his team solved the El Pollo Loco serial burglary case in 2015 with the arrests of two men. The serial burglary suspects were dubbed the “Ocean’s 11” crew because of their sophisticated equipment and planning.
As Whitney settles into his new duties, part of what he’ll be focusing on is strategic planning for the agency for the next three to five years. Currently staffed at 166 officers, GGPD Chief Todd Elgin has set a goal of having a staff of 200 officers by the year 2020.
“We have to test hundreds and hundreds of people to find the right Garden Grove officer,” Whitney said.
Considering that in 2017 and 2018, nine officers each year will have to be replaced due to retirements, recruitment will form a large part of that strategy. Over the past two years, the GGPD has hired more than 20 lateral officers. And more are on the way – six laterals are currently in background checks.
“We’re one of the most understaffed police departments in Orange County,” Whitney said.
And while the agency is in need of new officers, the candidates have to be the right fit. The goal is to hire a healthy mix of both laterals and homegrown cadets.
“Garden Grove’s a great city to work for,” he said. “It really is a family.”
On the public information side of things, Whitney hopes to use social media to open up community interaction.
“Our goal is to connect with the public,” he said.
He said detectives already have been using social media to help solve crimes, and he’d like to continue and expand this type of exchange of information.
“Without the support of the community, we wouldn’t be a great police department,” Whitney said.