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RPD Chief Chris Magnus, left, and Mayor-elect Tom Butt, right, showed support at a peaceful protest organized by the RYSE Center. (Photo by Bonnie Chan)

Chief Magnus finalist to head Tucson’s police department

on October 24, 2015

Police Chief Chris Magnus may be leaving town for a job in Arizona.

His Richmond police colleagues confirmed that Magnus is a finalist seeking the job of police chief in Tucson. The Arizona Star reported on Monday that Magnus is one of four finalists.

Magnus did not return calls seeking comment after the news broke. But he told his Richmond police colleagues about the job search on Monday. Reaction to Magnus’ potential departure was rated high on the surprise scale, to say the least.

“It was like being a passenger on an airplane, hearing over the intercom, ‘Does anybody know how to fly this plane?’” said Capt. Mark Gagan as he recalled hearing the rather sudden announcement.

Magnus has been the police chief in Richmond since 2006. Best known for his attempts to connect the police with the community, supporters say he has successfully twisted Richmond’s reputation for the better. Richmond had been ranked among the nation’s most violent cities when Magnus came into office, but crime rates now are at their lowest levels in three decades.

Many have credited this to Magnus’ programs combating domestic violence and helping youths overcome difficulties in school and at home.

Despite getting off to a rocky start with allegations of Magnus’ racial discrimination within the Richmond PD, related lawsuits failed in court.

Magnus has gained national recognition after showing up in his uniform at a “Black Lives Matter” protest in the wake of the Ferguson shooting last year. He received backlash from the Richmond Police Officers Association for wearing his uniform to the protest, as the California Government Code prohibits local agency employees to participate in all political activities in uniform.

He defended his actions, saying that his part in the demonstrations was “intended to be a humane statement” as opposed to a political statement.

He is also one of the few police chiefs who are openly gay.

Gagan said Magnus took steps to put a leadership team in place that will “continue toward the direction he has pulled us.”

If Magnus does depart, it will be up to the city manager and city council to find a replacement with community input.

The other reported finalists for the Tucson police chief position are Malik Aziz, the deputy police chief of the Dallas Police; Larry B. Esquivel, the San Jose police chief; and Rick S. Gregory, vice president at the Institute of Intergovernmental Research in Tallahassee, Florida. The finalists are scheduled to be interviewed in Tuscon on October 29, as reported by the Arizona Daily Star.

Richmond radio host and activist Andres Soto said he wasn’t surprised Magnus may be looking to move to a larger city. The Richmond police chief has attracted national attention, both for his police work and his support of Black Lives Matter last year.

“He’s proven to be a dynamic police chief who has engaged the community and created open dialogue with the community,” Soto said.

Gagan added that “the one thing he (Magnus) has not tried to do at Richmond PD is to solve problems by ourselves.” He has tried to “bring in other stakeholders to create the energy…”

“Then I realized, yes, we can fly the airplane,” Gagan said.

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