Allwyn Brown was sworn in as Richmond’s new police chief Tuesday afternoon at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium in a ceremony that preceded the city council meeting. Brown accepted the position last month after serving as interim chief of the city’s police force since January.
About 200 people were in attendance, including Mayor Tom Butt, city councilmembers, Bay Area law enforcement leaders, and even former police chief Chris Magnus, according to Lieutenant Felix Tan, the police department’s chief of staff.
Brown is an Oakland native and 31-year veteran of the department. He becomes the 16th police chief in the city’s history and is the first in 23 years to be appointed internally. Brown, whose entire policing career has been in Richmond, is also unique in that he skipped a rank as lieutenant when he became captain after his role as sergeant.
“Our success is going to be determined by a department that’s filled with smart, bright, capable people and an engaged public, which is what we have,” Brown said of the police department’s future.
Magnus left his position in January to lead Tucson, Arizona’s police force. He had led the Richmond PD from 2006 to the beginning of 2016. Magnus was credited with reducing violence and homicide rates throughout city during his tenure, as well as establishing stronger communications between police officers and city residents.
In a January press conference before his departure, Magnus said there was still work to do. “Nobody in this department would say the work is complete,” Magnus told Richmond Confidential. “It really is a work in progress.”
Brown worked closely with Magnus for eight years, especially after being promoted last summer to assistant chief of the police force. Brown said Magnus gave him this advice as he takes on his new role: “You’ll be fine.”
“It’s more of a hand-off,” Brown said, adding that he is not moving into an unfamiliar position. “What we have, I helped build.”
Because of this, Tan thinks Brown’s transition will be seamless. “Chief Brown is committed to staying in the course Chief Magnus has paved,” Tan said. “He always was very in-touch and instrumental with that, and was part of the discussion.”
Brown now supervises 186 police officers, about 60 professional staff members and a group of dispatchers. In January, he started “Pound the Beat,” a community outreach effort that sends officers into communities by foot to meet residents and educate them about crime, as well as request feedback.
“Everything starts with community engagement,” Brown said. “We encourage officers to better understand the characteristics of the neighborhoods assigned to them.”
Brown said the force would continue employing successful tactics and procedures already in place. “Moving forward, the idea is we’re not going to fix what’s not broken,” he said, adding that community safety is everyone’s responsibility and not just a job for the city’s police force.
The biggest challenge at hand, Brown said, is reducing crime, which is fed by different variables and can’t easily be prevented. “It’s a job we can’t do in isolation, but in partnership with neighbors and all the stakeholders who can help,” Brown said.
Brown’s former position as assistant chief of the force is vacant. Tan said the police department intends to fill the position soon.