Chris Magnus moved to Richmond, California in 2006 from Fargo, North Dakota to be Richmond’s new police chief. Richmond is a suburb of San Francisco. He recalled hearing gunshots at night on many occasions when he first moved into the neighborhood.
He had some serious challenges to overcome.
Thanks to the efforts of his department, Richmond saw murders reduced from 47 in 2007 to 11 just last year. Magnus calls his approach Geographic Policing. It involves assigning police officers specific areas to patrol for long periods of time, even years at a time.
He also challenged his officers to do more than just respond to crime. He told them to get out of their cars and get to know the people. This isn’t a new approach to policing. Many smaller towns and cities have had this approach since the very concept of law enforcement was founded.
Magnus also made national headlines when he stood with the #blacklivesmatter protesters and even held up a #blacklivesmatter sign. Law enforcement agencies and supporters were not amused, and I ‘m sure he won’t be getting any Christmas cards from the National Organization of Police Organizations any time soon.
Oh did I mention Magnus is also openly gay? It’s not hard to see how being a gay man has given him a unique perspective on how it feels to be a minority, but surprisingly he acknowledges that he has also had advantages. He is, after all, a white male, he explains. Can you believe there is actually a police chief that recognizes “White Privilege?”
It’s interesting how police departments define “community policing.” I think if you ask police chiefs around the country they would say that they have “a very strong community policing program,” or they would say “we are doing a better job…”
For too many police departments, having officers speak at schools and attend community events satisfies their community based quota.?Many citizens who regularly defend police actions don’t think that police should have to do more than enforce the law. They blame the communities in which the police serve.
The results of having such a low bar for “community policing” had never been more apparent than in cities like Ferguson and parts of New York City. I believe that seeing police interact with the community versus just riding by in patrol cars and frisking citizens is a huge part of the puzzle when it comes to reducing crime and perhaps, to a certain degree, poverty. Poor communities need partners not prison guards.
I hope Richmond, California becomes a national model for how policing should be done. Kudos to Chief Magnus, his dedicated officers, and their “we give a damn” approach to policing their community. Please watch this video and be inspired.