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  San Jose, Richmond chiefs are finalists to head Tucson police
October 20, 2015

San Jose, Richmond chiefs are finalists to head Tucson police

By Robert Salonga and Karina Ioffee Bay Area News Group

Posted:   10/20/2015 07:06:52 AM PDT | Updated:   19 min. ago

Chris Magnus

Richmond Chief of Police Chris Magnus stands with demonstrators along Macdonald Ave. to protest the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths during a peaceful demonstration in Richmond, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

Two of the Bay Area's most prominent police chiefs are in the running to head the Tuscon Police Department.
San Jose police Chief Larry Esquivel and Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus are two of four finalists selected from a national search to replace outgoing Chief Robert Villaseñor, who is retiring in December after leading Tucson police since 2009.

The two other finalists are Malik Aziz, deputy chief in Dallas since 2008, and Rick Gregory, who was police chief in Provo, Utah, from 2011-13.

Esquivel, 53, is the outgoing chief of the San Jose Police Department, where he has served his hometown for 30 years, during which it grew into the country's 10th largest city. He announced his retirement from SJPD over the summer, with a departure date of Jan. 16. Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia has been tapped to replace him as interim chief.

Larry Esquivel

Larry Esquivel, Chief of the San Jose Police Department, talks to the media at the San Jose Exchange Club's Blue & Gold wounded in service awards ceremony in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, March 27, 2015. The club also honored recently fallen San Jose Police Department Officer, Michael Johnson at the event. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)
Magnus has been chief of Richmond police since 2006, after arriving from Fargo, North Dakota. Under Magnus's leadership, Richmond's crime plummeted and relations between residents and the police vastly improved.

Changes in the department included assigning police officers specific beats and keeping them there instead of rotating every year to establish better relations with residents, and sharing more information with the public through regular posts on social media. Another was an increased focus on partnerships with community groups and an audio-detection system that dispatched officers to gunfire before a human could call 911.

Magnus said that he was heavily recruited by the Police Executive Research Forum, of which he is a member, for other positions but didn't consider leaving Richmond until the opportunity to lead the Tucson Police Department presented itself earlier this year.

"I love my job, but a new set of challenges can be a good thing," Magnus said Tuesday.

If selected, Magnus would lead a department of nearly 1,000 sworn personnel in a city of more than half a million residents. Tucson, located less than an hour north of the U.S.-Mexico border, has dealt with some border-related violence, drug smuggling and a higher-than-average rate of property crimes in recent years.

"It's a progressive community, but the underlying themes I'm interested -- community policing -- are the same," Magnus said. "That's the way we gain legitimacy with residents."

In San Jose, Esquivel led the department, where he's spent his whole career, through unprecedented trials that included chronic understaffing, an election year dominated by merciless sparring over the city's public safety and true crime picture, and intense scrutiny about racial sensitivity in light of national movements. He leaves the department on an upswing, with a contentious pay and pension battle seemingly resolved and recovering morale.

The four finalists will interview with the 15-member City Police Chief Appointment Advisory Committee, Tucson Police Officers Association, Tucson Police Department command and the city's executive leadership team. The group's input will then be submitted to City Manager Michael Ortega.