Incoming Pasadena Police Chief Eugene Harris said he plans to hit the ground running after he officially begins with the department on Jan. 3.
“I am glad to be here and honored to be standing here in this beautiful building getting ready to embark on this next stage of my career,” Harris said on Monday after he was introduced to the press at City Hall. “I’m certainly happy with the way things have gone with this transition.
“I’m glad and thankful the City Manager saw fit to bring me on and I am hopeful that here pretty soon we can hit the ground running. I’m very excited to be a part of this team.”
City Manager Miguel Márquez said that Harris was chosen after a robust process and a thorough vetting.
Harris formerly served in the US Marines and joined the police academy in 1986.
“Chief Harris has a distinguished 30 year career in law enforcement, working in the Monterey Park Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department prior to being appointed in 2016 to serve as police chief in San Gabriel.” Márquez said.
Harris also currently serves as president of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association, actively engaging in advancing the science and art of police administration and crime prevention. In this role, he is also involved in developing, teaching and disseminating best practices across numerous agencies.
Harris replaces John Perez who left the department nearly one year ago after working in Pasadena for more than 30 years. He met some members of the department’s command staff shortly before speaking to the press on Monday.
“It is an attractive challenge,” Harris said. “All of the world class city issues that you have in a city of this size are attractive to a person like me who is looking to grow and develop and be a part of something that is already soaring.”
Harris said he has seen law enforcement adapt since he began and now department’s listen more to local stakeholders. He also said the us-versus-them mentality has given way to more transparency, he promised to continue that transparency.
“I’ve wanted to be successful, but more than that I’ve wanted to be significant,” he said. “I want to matter to the organization. I want to matter to the profession and I want folks around me to want the same thing and so when you have an opportunity like this and an opportunity to put your name in the hat, I’d be naive not to do it.”
Harris comes to Pasadena at a time when some local residents, and some outside the community, have called for more say in local policing.
The City has established a civilian oversight commission, which seems to want even more say in how the department is run, including having a say in choosing the police chief.
Meanwhile, a small group of local activists have been calling on the City Council and the police chief to fire two local police officers involved in the fatal officer-involved shooting of Anthony McClain in 2020.
On Monday, an hour after he was introduced to the press, Mayor Victor Gordo introduced Harris to the City Council and the community during Monday night’s meeting.
It wasn’t long before a caller demanded Harris fire the police officers involved in the shooting on his first day on the job. Harris didn’t seem fazed by the demands.
It will take tough skin to stay focused. The department continues to face criticism from a vocal group. Those activists have now turned their focus to a probe by the Office of Independent Review, but the probe will only focus on police policy and does not determine criminality in the probe.
“I look forward to meeting all of the folks in the city and hitting the ground and trying to advance law enforcement in this town and making it a wonderful place for our stakeholders to raise their children and live,” Harris said.