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Council OKs Magnus as new TPD chief

Chris Magnus, the police chief of Richmond, Calif., has been appointed as the new head of the Tucson Police Department. The City Council unanimously approved City Manager Michael Ortega's pick Tuesday night.

Magnus will start around Jan. 1. TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor will retire at the end of the year.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said that he learned that the incoming chief is "fair, transparent in how he runs his department, and very disciplined," when Rothschild traveled to Richmond last week to meet with members of the community and members of Magnus' force there, including command staff and members of the police union.

Rothschild noted Magnus' role in "reducing homicide over the past years by 80 percent" in Richmond, a Bay Area city known for racial tensions.

"I know that we have a professional police department that will cooperate and welcome their new chief," said Councilwoman Regina Romero.

Three candidates were interviewed last month, with leaders of Tucson's police union favoring Malik Aziz, a deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department. A citizens committee and the executive leadership team at City Hall favored Magnus. The odd man out was Rick Gregory, a former chief in Provo, Utah, who held other law enforcement posts in Delaware and with the Florida Highway Patrol for more than two decades.

"Over the weekend, I was informed that one of the candidates, Malik Aziz, had requested his name be withdrawn from consideration. I followed up with him late yesterday and he confirmed," Ortega said Monday in a memo to Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and members of the City Council.

Magnus' base salary will be $200,000, with a $5,000 raise after the first year of his contract, according to City Council documents. The city will also pay $10,000 annually into a deferred compensation account, City Attorney Mike Rankin said Tuesday, noting that that figure had mistakenly been left off of documents included in the meeting agenda.

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Villaseñor was paid a base of $163,000, not including sick-leave sell-backs; he was paid $160,000 annually when he was appointed in 2009. Magnus' base salary in Richmond has been $222,000.

No local candidates were among the finalists to replace Villaseñor. Three of TPD's four assistant chiefs and a police captain were reportedly among the 60 people who applied for the post.

Ortega, members of the police union and city officials traveled to Richmond last week to learn more about Magnus' tenure there.

"I believe he brings the skills and abilities to do a great job here in Tucson and will make a great addition to our team," Ortega said in informing the Council of his choice of the 55-year-old Magnus.

Leaders in the police union were lukewarm at best about all three potential top cops, with the least support evident for the citizens committee's first choice.

The union has knocked the Richmond chief for holding a protest sign at a 2014 Black Lives Matter demonstration.

Magnus publicly addressed that issue with the citizens committee last month.

"All lives matter... Police lives matter. Black lives matter," he said, assessing a "false narrative" that those slogans are opposed. "We need to recognize that there is a divide that we need to ... bridge."

"Officers will see that I care a great deal about what happens to them," he said.

Magnus was previously police chief in Fargo, N.D., and on the force in Lansing, Mich.

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His time in Richmond was marred by a 2012 trial in which officers alleged racial discrimination, but he and the department were cleared by a jury. A former officer who was fired because of domestic violence and firearms-related violations sued Magnus earlier this year, claiming that the openly gay chief, who is married, sexually harassed him. Magnus has vigorously denied the allegations; the suit is working its way through the courts.

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have your say   

2 comments on this story

Nov 18, 2015, 8:13 pm
-0 +0

Dear Chief

We will all be watching.

Good luck.

Nov 18, 2015, 10:58 am
-2 +2

Hoping the new chief of Police is a good choice, but..

I’d sure like to see Tucson hired from WITHIN their own PD!

Surely there are decent choices WITHIN TPD!

Sorry, we missed your input...

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Click image to enlarge

Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Chris Magnus, right, being interviewed by the City Police Chief Appointment Advisory Committee last month.

About TPD

The Tucson Police Department, with a $168 million budget, has 942 sworn officers and some 300 civilian employees.

The candidates

About 60 people expressed interest in the TPD post. That list was narrowed to 30 by consultants from the Police Executive Research Forum, then cut to 15 by City Manager Michael Ortega. Those candidates were cut to five after an internal review by representatives from the offices of the county attorney, public defender and other agencies. One candidate withdrew from consideration before names were released last month, and another withdrew his name prior to being interviewed in Tucson, Ortega said.