Kenneth Garner (1955-2009): Alumnus Set Example for Fellow LAPD Officers and Los Angeles Community
Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner (Class of ’82, B.A., psychology) of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), died on March 1 at the age of 53. During his 31-year career with the LAPD, the native of Hot Springs, Ark., served in numerous prominent positions throughout the force, all the while maintaining an eye on South Los Angeles.
Friend and fellow Toro John Kucher (Class of ’84, B.A., psychology; teaching credential, ’09) says that his late classmate “had the heart of a lion.”
“When I saw the way he carried himself on duty, I said to myself that this is the way that police officers are supposed to conduct themselves,” Kucher says. “Ken Garner embodied all the qualities that society, especially in South L.A., would like to see out of police officers. He would venture into projects that other officers wouldn’t go into... to diffuse situations. This is the type of person he was. This is a big loss for the LAPD and the Los Angeles community.”
Garner was born in the Army Navy Hospital in Hot Springs, Ark. and raised at various military posts as his family accompanied his father, Army Master Stg. Otto Garner, throughout his career to assignments in Japan, Taiwan and Germany. The family settled in the Los Angeles area when Kenneth Garner was 14, and Kucher met him when they both attended and played football at San Pedro High School. He says that Garner’s father was a strong influence who instilled in his son a disciplined work ethic and a quiet dignity in regard to his chosen career.
“[Ken] didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, and ran five miles a day,” Kucher recalls. “He was in the Explorer’s Program with the LAPD, and in the 10th grade, he told me he was going to be a police officer. Ken was always the most understated police officer you ever met. You wouldn’t know he was a police officer until you saw him get saluted by [his officers].”
After joining the LAPD in 1977, Garner was assigned and promoted to various precincts in Los Angeles, including posts as commanding officer of the Foothill Detective Division, the Transit Bus Division and the Personnel Group. On July 1, 2007, a month after he celebrated 30 years with the LAPD, he was promoted to the rank of deputy chief and assigned as commanding officer to the Operations-West Bureau, with oversight of all the police operations in the Hollywood, Wilshire, West Los Angeles, and Pacific areas, as well as the West Traffic Division. In 2008, Deputy Chief Garner assumed command of Operations-South Bureau and took charge of the 77th, Southwest, Southeast and Harbor areas, as well as the South Traffic Division.
Garner received his associate of arts degree in administration of justice from Los Angeles Harbor College in 1975. He is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Academy, the Supervisory Leadership Institute and the Senior Management Institute Program at Boston University. His accolades from community leaders and organizations include recognition by the California State Assembly, the NAACP, Los Angeles Councilman Alex Padilla, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Garner did volunteer coaching for youth basketball, baseball and football for the West Los Angeles Mar Vista Recreation Center. He served on the boards of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation (African American Police Officers Association),the Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives and Los Angeles Police Command Officers Association. He was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., and the FBI National Academy Association. In 2008, Garner was honored with a Trailblazer Award from the Los Angeles Association of Black Personnel, which recognized him for his outstanding contribution to the progress of African Americans in Los Angeles.
He is survived by his daughter, Lauren Garner, parents Mary and Otto Garner, sisters Carolyn Garner and Neilanne Gray, and brother David Garner.
- Joanie Harmon
Photo above: Kenneth Garner (at left) upon his promotion to captain, with his father, Master Sgt. Otto Garner, in 1998.
Courtesy of David Garner