Jim McDonnell has served for almost forty years in the public safety profession. He is the first person to serve in senior executive leadership positions in the three largest policing agencies in Los Angeles County: the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD). During his tenure, all three agencies saw a reduction in crime and improved police-community relations.
Beginning his career with the LAPD, McDonnell served there for twenty-nine years and held every rank up to First Assistant Chief of Police. He worked a wide variety of assignments, including homicide, gangs, organized crime, vice, and patrol operations. Early in his tenure at the LAPD, McDonnell played an integral role in developing the framework for community policing that would transform the LAPD into a thought leader in community policing strategies. McDonnell continued to build upon this framework throughout his career. He retired from the LAPD in 2010 to become the Chief of the Long Beach Police Department, where he served for almost five years.
In 2014, McDonnell was elected as the thirty-second Sheriff of Los Angeles County to lead the largest sheriff's department in the United States with over 18,000 employees and manage an annual budget of over $3.3 billion dollars. McDonnell took over an agency that had been shaken by scandal and, in his four-year term, was able to restore public trust, institutionalize systems of accountability, and work collaboratively and effectively with federal, state and, local agencies to combat human trafficking and counterterrorism, among other regional challenges. McDonnell inherited the nation’s largest jail system, which had come under a federal consent decree due to a pattern or practice of inadequate mental health care and excessive force in violation of inmates’ civil rights. McDonnell’s administration was able to restore a culture of professionalism and respect, thereby substantially changing it to one considered a model for large jail systems.
McDonnell is a respected voice on local, state, and national criminal justice issues. He has served as Vice President of the Major County Sheriffs of America; President of the California Peace Officers’ Association; President of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association; a board member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police; a board member of the Peace Officers’ Association of Los Angeles County; a member of the Major Cities Chiefs Association; and as a member of the California Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards & Training (POST).
After earning a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, McDonnell obtained a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California. He is also a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Executive Institute and has completed executive education programs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
McDonnell formed McDonnell Strategies Group in early 2019 to advise clients across the nation on a diverse range of issues involving public safety and leadership development.