Another Chief Who Gets It!

Police Chief Chris Magnus, Richmond, California
Police Chief Chris Magnus, Richmond, California

Here’s another Chief who gets it!

The following are excerpts from an on-line article by Steve Early on November 29, 2014 from YES! Magazine (a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions). Early is a journalist and author who lives in Richmond, California. He belongs to the Richmond Progressive Alliance and is currently working on a book about progressive public policy initiatives and political change in the city. He can be reached at Lsupport@aol.com

Police Violence is Not Inevitable: Four Ways a California Police Chief Connected Cops with Communities

In the wake of Missouri’s grand jury decision, a model for better policing and relationships with the community is needed. Richmond, California is an example other cities can learn from.

“In the wake of a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, it can be difficult to imagine a place where law enforcement and a racially diverse population work together productively in the United States.

“But it’s happening in Richmond, California, a gritty town in the San Francisco Bay Area best known for its massive Chevron refinery and, in previous years, for its high crime rate…

“Police violence, in particular, is way down. Despite making thousands of arrests each year and confiscating one gun or more every day, the Richmond Police Department has averaged less than one officer-involved shooting per year since 2008. On September 6, The Contra Costa Times ran a story citing these and other statistics under the headline “Use of Deadly Force by Police Disappears on Richmond Streets.”

“Police Chief Chris Magnus has been widely credited with enacting the reforms that led to these changes. In recognition of Richmond’s progress, and Magnus’ role in it, the U.S. Department of Justice recently added him to a panel of experts investigating the breakdown of police-community relations in Ferguson, Missouri…

“’More communities are now taking a closer look at what’s going on in their own police departments and whether it meets their needs, including on issues involving race and diversity,’ he observes. ‘A critical look at any institution with as much power and authority invested in it as the police is probably a good thing’…

During his nine years as chief, Magnus has implemented a number of policing reforms. We spoke to him about what it took to make the Richmond Police Department into what it is today.

Magnus, who formerly was chief in Fargo, North Dakota, offered these steps toward improvement:

  1. Rewarding cops for connecting with the community

“Magnus began the process of change by reshuffling the department’s command structure and promoting like-minded senior officers…

  1. Hiring for diversity

“As chief, Magnus has made it a top priority to hire and promote more women, Asians, Latinos, and African Americans…

  1. Partnering with activists and city groups

“Under Magnus, the Richmond Police Department worked closely with the new city hall-based Office of Neighborhood Safety, which deploys a network of street-smart youth mentors to identify teenagers most at risk of joining gangs or engaging in gun violence. The office has enrolled scores of young men and women in a “Peacemaker Fellowship” designed to provide job training, counseling, and financial support to young people who agree to abandon a life of crime…

  1. Staying away from guns

“Magnus has consistently promoted new training programs and the acquisition of nonlethal weaponry, including Tasers and pepper spray, designed to minimize the use of deadly force. Richmond now participates, along with five other cities, in the nationwide Violence Reduction Network sponsored by the United States Department of Justice…”

“Even in a city held up as a model for better policing, relationships with the community are being tested once again. It took nearly a decade of change in the culture of the department and a supportive city leadership to get this far—that’s an indication of how long and difficult the road ahead will be in other places.”

To read the full article CLICK HERE.

For more on Chief Magnus and handling protest CLICK HERE.