New TPD Chief: 'I think we'll have a very strong leadership'

Published: Nov. 18, 2015 at 9:29 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson City Council unanimously approved Christopher Magnus as chief of police on Tuesday..

Magnus will replace current Chief of Police Roberto Villaseñor when he retires at the end of the year.

His starting salary will be $200,000, $19,000 more than what Villaseñor has been earning.

Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega, who selected Magnus following a nationwide search that included 60 names, said the salary is the comparable rate for a chief in a city of Tucson's size.

Magnus has 35 years of police experience.

He worked for 15 years in Lansing, MI, was a chief of police in Fargo, ND for 6.5 years and has been the chief of police in Richmond, CA for the past 10 years.

After those 10 years, Magnus said he feels ready to take on a new challenge.

"Some of the best things that have happened to me in my career, and really my life have been as a result of me stepping out of my comfort zone, taking on a new challenge," he said. "I believe Tucson is just the right place for that."

Prior to him being selected, the Tucson Police Officers' Association said they endorsed Malik Aziz, the other finalist for the job.

However, Aziz dropped out at last minute.

Tucson News Now asked Magnus how he feels coming into an environment where the majority of Tucson's officers verbally endorsed a different candidate.

"First of all, change is difficult and any outsider coming into a department is a stressful period to an agency. Change is tough," Magnus said. "I realize that people don't really know me...I'm very confident that once the men and women of the Tucson Police Department get to know me, have a chance to talk to me, work with me and see the kind of advocate I can be, the kind of leadership I can provide, I think we'll have a very strong leadership."

Magnus added that he hopes they will reserve judgment.

"I believe in building relationships in a community, but also within the police department as well," he said.

Magnus has a national reputation for crime reduction and his efforts and initiatives in neighborhood policing.

He comes from a community that is predominantly Latino and African American. It's a city that has a lot of racial tension and violence, and has struggled to bounce back from the recession.

"When I came here, Richmond was one of the top crime cities in the nation. Not just California, the nation. We at one point had one homicide a week, more than 50 homicides a year," Magnus said.

During his time in Richmond, his efforts have led to a reduction of 80 percent in the city's homicide rate.

City leaders said they are impressed with Magnus' ability to find money even in tight budget times.

Magnus said creativity, innovation and forming good partnerships were key in that effort.

"You don't have to have a lot of money to do some very interesting and important things," Magnus said.

He has also gained national attention for his neighborhood policing program.

"Every officer needs to be a strong community policing, neighborhood police officer. I mean, that's really how you reduce crime. I don't think this is even a question of funding. I think a well-rounded police officer is in touch with the people in his neighborhood, engages with neighborhood associations, knows the businesses, knows the nonprofits, churches, schools and is always looking for those things even with the demanding call load," Magnus said.

He explained how they worked the beat in Richmond.

"Now beat officers know the residents in the neighborhood. We focus on really the most violent and dangerous individuals rather than doing broad sweeps of areas. We get a lot of feedback and input from residents, we collaborate with them on initiatives we're starting," Magnus said.

He said he had a hands-on approach and has spent a lot of time out in the community listening to residents' concerns, in addition to his staff.

"I want an environment that's inclusive, where people are treated with respect and where we share a common goal around both crime fighting and community problem solving," he added.

Related: Tucson City Council unanimously approves Magnus as police chief

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