D.A. Steve Cooley announced today that he is promoting Jackie Lacey to be his second-in-command.

The promotion to chief deputy helps Lacey in at least two ways as she mounts a campaign for district attorney in 2012. First, it gives her greater management responsibility and more experience that would allow her to argue — as Hillary Clinton used to say — that she'll be ready on Day One.

And second, it gives her a ballot title — “Chief Deputy” — that should be an advantage with low-information voters.

Of course, it would be even better to get Cooley's endorsement.

But that's not happening at the moment. Officially, Cooley is still undecided about whether he will run for a fourth term. Most everyone — except Carmen Trutanich — expects him to retire, which is why there are a half-dozen prosecutors out there raising money.

If Cooley does retire, most insiders expect him to endorse Lacey. Today's promotion is further evidence of that. But if he doesn't, it will be seen as a major slight — and it could well sink her campaign.

Lacey, who has been the No. 3 administrator, is taking over for John Spillane, who is leaving the downtown office to go run the San Fernando branch. In a press statement today, Cooley praised Lacey's “outstanding leadership” and said she had “a wealth of knowledge, experience and innovative ideas.”

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