Meet Chris Magnus, who took a chief position in Richmond, California, police department. When he first moved there in 2006, the city was hugely infamous for its crippling crime rates, but he managed to change that: between 2009 and 2014, killings in Richmond—often gang related—declined five years in a row. Violent crime in general was 23% lower, and property crime fell by 40% during that period. By the end of 2015, the city’s homicide rate was 50% lower than a decade earlier.
His department has not lost an officer or killed a citizen since the moment of his appointment.
To achieve such terrific results, Magnus had to ask himself one question: is community policing really policing the community in the way that the community wants to be policed, or is it driven by the police department?
To achieve his purpose, he didn’t do it by banging heads. He didn't do it by accident. He did it by reaching out. Magnus has engaged residents, not just talking about putting cops in the community, as some police leaders have, but actually doing it, establishing a critical rapport between officers and residents.
Chief Magnus changed the department from one that focused on “impact teams” of officers who roamed rough neighborhoods looking to make arrests to one that required all officers to adopt a “community policing” model, which emphasizes relationship building.
About two-thirds of all promotions he made in his first four years on the job went to people of color. Racial minorities dominate his command staff.
"We had generations of families raised to hate and fear the Richmond police, and a lot of that was the result of our style of policing in the past. It took us a long time to turn that around, and we’re seeing the fruits of that now. There is a mutual respect now, and some mutual compassion," Magnus said.
He also was not afraid to take a stance against police brutality when he had participated in a Black Lives Matter rally in Richmond, joining activists who protested violence in other cities. Magnus has never been a typical chief. He challenged the county sheriff and other local police chiefs to focus on rehabilitation rather than new jail construction.
So, to summarize, what do we have here? One bad apple spoils the bunch, while one good chief can establish such level of trust in the community that one can be sure that any situation would be de-escalated and that police officers would do what they are meant to do - to protect and serve. This is extremely important.
He left the Richmond Police Department in 2015 to continue his service in Tuscon.