From cop to pop: LBPD officer uses music to help fund nonprofits

cd-guitar.jpgBy Athena Mekis
Contributing Writer

Long Beach Police Department knows Jeffrey Leland Johnson as commander of the Detective Division, but to his band mates and fans he is known as Jeff Leland, the musician who uses his talents in an altruistic way. He released his first album six months ago, and has since sold around 5,000 copies. The proceeds go to two different nonprofit organizations: the Long Beach Bar Foundation’s Shortstop Program for at-risk youth, and the Long Beach Police Officers Association’s Widows and Orphans Fund.
His band’s album I’m An American has a diverse composition. “Its blues, rock ‘n’ roll, country and easy listening,” Leland said. The first song, “I’m An American,” was written in response to the negative statements some Europeans were saying about America declaring war on Afghanistan and then Iraq. It’s about Americans’ self sacrifice.”
Leland’s voice is his strongest instrument. He began singing in church then choir during his senior year in high school. Choir may seem like social suicide in high school, especially for a football player, but his decision to follow Leland’s love for music has made a positive impact on his life as well as others. “It is rewarding to get ideas for a song when I’m not even thinking about it. Finalizing a song and recording it is rewarding, (but) for me, the most rewarding is performing live,” he said.
The official band name is Jeff Leland & PosseGato. Vince Delgado played lead guitar and produced the album, putting in synthetic music where needed. He is currently developing MySpace and Facebook pages where he plans to market their music to military families.
Leland gave each song a melody that accompanied the subject. “Telephone Hell” is played in a melancholy style. In “Life is What Happens,” Delgado picks at the guitar to characterize a country style, and “Come Sit Awhile” was produced as a hymn which “pays tribute” to his heritage.
Every song is written from personal experiences, and many were written specifically for veterans programs. In his 26 years as a police officer he has seen many parolees get right back into trouble. “Back in Custody” is a humorous look at those situations. He also worked six years on the graveyard shift. “Watch One” describes how he felt patrolling the streets at night. Leland said that he’s had nurses and firefighters tell him “Oh, yeah. I get it,” about working until the sun comes up.
Leland believes he keeps an open mind about politics and society. “I trust bureaucracy and I detest bureaucracy.” He certainly shows it in this collection of songs.
One result of 9/11 is that officers now require more training and, consequently. more work. During 9/11, local police departments had to send employees to cover the harbor, the airport, and the World Trade Center. Now, there are police divisions such as Homeland Security to focus on those specific areas. “We have to worry about people taking pictures of the World Trade Center,” he said. Whereas before they didn’t even think about that kind of incident.
Leland shows his idea of America on the cover of the album. It’s a barn with an American flag painted on the side. “It seemed Americana, nothing pretentious. Just an average, down-to-earth [image]” he
Jeff Leland and PosseGato have three new members joining the band: Joseph Balderian, bass; Dave Merander, drums; and David Cannan, keyboard. The band has yet to perform, but council people and coordinators are enthusiastically waiting.
To order the $20 CD call the Long Beach Police Officers Association at (562) 426-1201, or the Long Beach Bar Foundation at (562) 981-7525. It can also be ordered via the Association’s online store at

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