Spotlight on Leadership

2016 Ring of Excellence Award Winner Joe LaRocca

By Lee Pernice, LPC

Since 2004, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has been recognizing and honoring the men and women in Law Enforcement and Retail Loss Prevention with annual awards. Over the years, these individuals have made significant contributions in keeping our stores and consumers safe, protecting merchandising and taking criminals off the streets.

This year's recipient of the Ring of Excellence award went to Joe LaRocca. This award recognizes pioneers in the retail LP industry whose honor, integrity and character serve as an example for the industry. Joe is currently the Founder and Vice President, Loss Prevention for RetaiLPartners, a Los-Angeles-based LP consulting firm. 

Joe's career in retail loss prevention began more than 20 years ago almost by accident, an accident he says was one of the best things to happen to him. He started in the industry as a part-time store guard for a Los Angeles-based department store and moved into another part-time role as an LP agent when the position became available.  But Joe's real goal was to join a Federal Law Enforcement agency, possibly the NSA. A friend suggested he first join a local police department as a start in his chosen career when fate played its hand. After going through the physical examinations that the job required, it was discovered that Joe suffered from a previously unknown health issue that would preclude him from a job on the police force and, ultimately as a Federal Law Enforcement agent.

After coming to terms with this news, Joe needed to find a new career to pursue when his then boss, industry veteran Jim Thibodeaux took him aside and assured him that he had a bright future in retail loss prevention and to give it a try. Over the years, Joe held various LP management positions with major department stores including Bullocks, Robinsons-May, Macy's, Rampage and finally the retail side of the Walt Disney Company before moving on to becoming the Vice President and Senior Advisor, Loss Prevention for the National Retail Federation. He has had many milestones in the industry during his career including opening the very first Macy's store in Southern California and building out its LP team, testifying before Congress and state legislatures on identify theft and organized retail crime, and serving as a nationally recognized LP spokesperson.

He has also been recognized three times by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for outstanding assistance in connection with investigations and for exceptional service in public safety. He is a volunteer reserve with the Los Angeles Police Department, a founding member of the Los Angeles Area Organized Retail Crime Association and an advisor to the Southern California chapter of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators (IAFCI).

Joe attributes his success to his passion for technology, educating the public and private sectors on the opportunities and challenges retailers face and the role that his mentors played in helping him shape his career and his contributions to the industry. In addition to working with Jim, Joe worked for Mike Keenan back when Mike was the Vice President of Loss Prevention for Macy's West and credits him for helping him grow in both experience and confidence.

Reflecting back, Mike remembers Joe when he was just beginning his career as an LP Manager at Macy's. 

"I immediately recognized that Joe had tremendous potential. He was very curious and asked a lot of questions. He always wanted to understand the "why." He learned quickly and volunteered for opportunities that would grow his knowledge and experience and help him develop his effective leadership style. Joe has been and continues to be a valuable asset to the LP profession and I am honored to call him a friend," concluded Mike.

For as long as he can remember though, Joe has brought a sense of entrepreneurship to every role he has held and technology was always a part of that picture. Back before the Internet was a household word, he acquired a number of domain names and built out one of the largest LP networking sites (LPInformation.com) in existence. He later sold that site to the National Retail Federation which served as what would become an entryway into the organization. He also wrote one of the first electronic case statistical tracking programs on the Bullock's main frame, which was eventually adopted as a standard in over 40 department stores. 

He now focuses on moving the industry forward through emerging technology such as social media and cyber investigations, educating store operations and C-level executives on profit protection and loss prevention and continuing to act as the bridge between public and private sectors in making both sides aware of the challenges the retail industry continues to face. 

When asked about the individual he convinced so many years ago to give retail LP a try, Jim Thibodeaux replied, "Joe's unique skills, character, integrity and passion for Loss Prevention have served him well. Best described as innovative, inquisitive, out-of-the-box thinker and a true visionary, his contributions and leadership have had a significant role in the growth of our industry. This award is a well-deserved honor."

More than 20 years ago, fate threw Joe LaRocca a curve ball that turned into a home run for the retail industry.

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