Today, Tucson City Manager Mike Ortega is expected to officially recommend that Chris Magnus, currently the chief of the Richmond (California) Police Department, be appointed by the mayor and City Council to be Tucson’s next chief of police.

As 11 members of the City Police Chief Appointment Advisory Committee who voted overwhelmingly on Oct. 29 for such a recommendation, we are ecstatic about the pending appointment.

As a group, our committee was impressed with Magnus’ vision of community policing and the examples he provided of police/community partnerships that he developed in Richmond. Once considered to be one of the roughest small cities in the nation, Richmond’s homicide and violent crime rates have decreased significantly during Magnus’ watch. He has utilized computerized technology to fight crime, which is sometimes called “smart policing.”

Also, as the city of Richmond has flirted with bankruptcy in the past, it is clear that Magnus is able to operate within budget constraints and still get positive results.

In supporting another candidate, the Tucson Police Officer Association (TPOA) recognized that Magnus has:

  • Reduced crime.
  • Increased police staffing.
  • Increased technology.
  • Increased police officer compensation and
  • Improved community relations.

The TPOA has criticized Magnus for replacing a Richmond internal affairs commander with a civilian. TPOA has also voiced strong opposition to Magnus holding a sign that said: “Black Lives Matter” at a protest in Richmond. Magnus explained to our committee that his presence at the protest, and his sign, were extensions of his department’s community-policing model. “Black Lives Matter” does not mean that other lives do not matter, Magnus told our committee. It means that one is acknowledging that institutional racism exists in our society and it must be addressed. (For more on Magnus’ views, see a news interview conducted by Katie Couric at: http://news.yahoo.com)

Current Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor has said that his department is built around a “calls for service” model and that he does not have enough officers to get out of their cars, walk the neighborhoods they patrol and get to know residents. Community policing is not merely a philosophy or a program within a department, Magnus explained to us, but ideally is a department-wide practice.

Based on how TPD has handled crowd control in our city during the past decade, our committee strongly supports community policing. These incidents include:

  • A pro-immigrant rally at Armory Park at which peaceful protesters were pepper-sprayed.
  • A militarized police presence at a Tucson Unified School Board meeting at which people voicing their opposition to the dismantling of TUSD’s Ethnic Studies program were arrested.
  • Crowd control near the University of Arizona following a loss by the UA basketball team in the NCAA tournament.

Our committee urges the mayor and City Council to appoint Magnus as Tucson’s next chief of police.

Magnus is a visionary leader with a proven track record. We believe that the people of Tucson deserve a police chief who reflects the values of the community and who has demonstrated a commitment to engaging all community members in meaningful ways. By implementing innovative recruitment strategies and “best practices,” we are hopeful that Magnus will increase the diversity and effectiveness of the TPD.

We are confident that even when parties disagree, Magnus will be open and honest in his dealings with members of TPD, the city manager, the mayor and council, and community members. Our committee is hopeful that true community policing can be implemented in Tucson, and that the mayor and council continue to move Tucson forward.

Margarita Bernal is a lawyer and a retired City Court judge; Michael Elsner is president of the Institute for Social Justice. The other members of the City Police Chief Appointment Advisory Committee who voted for Magnus are: Richard Fifer, a local business owner; Jennifer Jixang Huang, lawyer; Caroline Isaacs, American Friends Service Committee of Arizona; James Lyall, lawyer, American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona; Missy Ortiz, retired Phoenix police officer; Glen Parin, retired warden, Arizona Department of Corrections; Jeff Rogers, lawyer; the Rev. D. Grady Scott, Grace Temple Baptist Church; and Angela Wallace, Tucson NAACP.