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San Bernardino's new police chief Darren Goodman shares vision for department

Photo of Darren Goodman being sworn in as San Bernardino's new police chief on June 15, 2022.
San Bernardino Police Department
Photo of Darren Goodman being sworn in as San Bernardino's new police chief on June 15, 2022.

Newly appointed San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman spoke with KVCR’s Jonathan Linden.

Below is a transcript of the conversation between KVCR's Jonathan Linden and San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman.

Jonathan Linden: On June 15, Darren Goodman was officially sworn in as the new police chief for the city of San Bernardino and has become the first black individual to head the department. He joins me now. To get started here, Chief Goodman, could you talk about how your prior experience has prepared you for this position?

Darren Goodman: I was with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department for the first 27 years of my career and during that time, I worked a variety of assignments, including everything from patrol, corrections, narcotics, gangs, SWAT, and all of those assignments in the ascension that I achieved, up to the rank of captain more than prepared me for the job that I'm doing now. In addition to that, after I left the sheriff's department, I was appointed Chief of Police for the city of Upland where I served nearly four years. And during that, that gave me more insight to the role and more experience in the role. And that combined with my familiarity with the city of San Bernardino having worked here when I was with the county, I think is part of that preparation.

Jonathan Linden: You are the first non-interim police chief for San Bernardino since 2019. What will be your approach in leading the San Bernardino Police Department?

Darren Goodman: My approach will be to empower people to do their job. I think that I have a building full of talented and highly motivated folks. I am not inheriting a broken department by any means. I will proudly say that the interim chief that I took over from, Dave Green, was doing an outstanding job and set me up for success.

Jonathan Linden: And crime in the city is an ever-present concern for most San Bernardino residents. What are some policies and tactics you'll be using to address crime?

Darren Goodman: Well, I think they're more practices than policies. But I think our practice has to be not tolerating crime. And I don't say that to suggest that we have been tolerating it, but I think that we've somewhat yielded to the onslaught of political changes that are making it more difficult to do our job. And what I mean by that is, when you have legislators in the state of California, that are adamantly opposed to anything that includes incarceration, it makes it a revolving door. So, we have officers out there who are making the arrest, but there's no teeth in many of the charges anymore, particularly those that are most common, the misdemeanor quality of life crimes. So, it can become discouraging, and I can understand that sometimes the officers themselves, the District Attorney's Office, they're not pressing charges, and officers sometimes will not make arrests on things that they know, a guy they arrested the day before is already out. So, I know that that legislation has demoralized many police officers across the state, but my philosophy and my approach and what our practice will be, is we're going to continue to be aggressive because we owe it to the good people out there that don't deserve to be held hostage by these criminals taking over our streets.

Jonathan Linden: And what are some things that you can do in your capacity as the city's police chief to maybe sway or change the minds of politicians that you appear to say, have caused this issue?

City of San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman speaking during his swearing-in ceremony on June 15, 2022.
San Bernardino Police Department
City of San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman speaking during his swearing-in ceremony on June 15, 2022.

Darren Goodman: Well, you know, I don't know what I could do to change their mind because I know that there's very little appetite that the current state composed Public Safety Committee has for listening to us chiefs. I've gone to Sacramento with Sheriff Shannon Dicus and Sheriff Chad Bianco and others where we've tried to compel the Public Safety Committee to act on the best interests of the citizens of the state and some of those decisions. But they're not interested in that. I think the only thing that will change their mind is if they had to come and live in some of these communities or if they become victims themselves. But right now, their agenda is on making sure that we don't increase incarceration. And while I understand that incarceration by itself is not a solution, until we build capacity in some of our other systems that are more desired... what are we supposed to do about these people that continue to commit crime day in and day out? We have to separate them from the rest of the law-abiding community so that people can have the quality of life that they deserved and earn by not being criminals themselves.

Jonathan Linden: And are there particular types of crimes that you will be focused on addressing within San Bernardino?

Darren Goodman: Well, our highest priority obviously is violent crime. We've had 43 murders in this first six months, and we're only in June. So just simple math, I think that that would break down to close to seven a month, which is very high for this this year. And that surpasses previous year’s numbers by a significant margin... for the same timeframe, I should say, not the total number of annual homicides. So that will be my primary focus and that's a part of our efforts now. The first week I was here, we did a multi-agency crime suppression sweep that included almost every agency in San Bernardino County and the focus there was on going out and apprehending folks who were wanted for armed robberies and murders, and using a proactive, multi-agency approach to do that. I'll continue doing things like that. In fact, we just set up another sweep this morning that was done in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Probation Department and focus of this sweep, is to go out and contact many of those probationers who are out of compliance and parolees, in some cases that have very little contact because of the structure of the reporting system... most of it is by the honor system where they have to go and check in at a kiosk. And some of the caseloads held by the various entities that handle probation or parole, are so large that many of the criminals or former criminals, I should say, who are on supervised release, don't get constant contact. And as you've seen, on the news, almost every single arrest that's made for violent crime is someone who's a repeat offender and in many cases, someone who's out on supervised release, whether it's probation or parole.

Jonathan Linden: And sometimes people of color can feel threatened and not protected by law enforcement. How are you going to build trust with people of color and is that a personal priority for you?

Darren Goodman: It's absolutely a priority for me, but I'll push back against that assertion. I think the majority of people of color, as it relates to statistics... in a recent study, almost 80% of African Americans want more police, not less. I think that what we're talking about here is they want better policing. And better policing means police who are engaged, police who are active in their community when there's not criminal apprehensions or criminal pursuits going on... that's what people want. I think that if we separate that from the common rhetoric of just general police mistrust, we can get down to some points of agreement. And I think that most people and police departments and police professionals agree on the same things. Most people do not want criminals in their community, most people do not want criminals out there committing crime and jeopardizing their livelihoods, threatening their children, threatening their property values and their businesses. And they want police to come out and do their job to apprehend them. But what they what they also want, is they want to know that police are going to do a better job and do a more committed job and avoiding some of the mistakes that they've seen happen that have played out in the media. So even though those mistakes are very few and far between, they just get talked about ad nauseam. The majority of the crime that happens is happening in communities of color. So as a man of color, my commitment is 100% to protecting those communities from the very people committing the crime. And unfortunately, it just happens to be people who look like me.

Jonathan Linden: And just in April, an audit was released by the state, where it reviewed your department before you were with it, and four others, including the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Its key finding was that San Bernardino Police Department and the others evaluated had not been adequately guarding against biased conduct. Have you read that report? And if so, what is your response to that?

Darren Goodman: That was a report or an audit that happened before I got here, but I've since read the report, after arriving. And I will say this, there are a lot of things in that report that are very subjective and lacked specifics. And I think that that was on purpose by the audit entity. They didn't include names; they didn't include details that would be very pertinent for me to offer a specific answer. But what I will say is the actual findings were agreeable in some cases, and the only parts that were agreeable were that we should do a better job at detailing our efforts. Not that we weren't committed to or performing the effort necessary, there were just situations where we didn't write out exactly what we did in an investigation, or we didn't document very well, all of the different trainings that we committed to, to educate our officers on bias. There were things like that and for those things, there's corrections already in place and we'll do better. But it must be made clear that there was no circumstance that I'm aware of that was conclusive in terms of officers acting inappropriately or behaving inappropriately.

Jonathan Linden: And the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department made that argument as well. But Chief Goodman, was there anything else that you would like to share with our listeners?

Darren Goodman: What I'd like to share is all the good work that we do day in and day out, and remind the community, specifically the San Bernardino community that we have a lot of value in this community worth fighting for. And I don't want people to feel like our police department is ignoring their needs and concerns. We're going to be active in the community, trying to make it better. We'll be engaging, we'll try to present opportunities for folks to come and join us. We're doing fun things like having a national night out, that's coming up soon. You know, we'll be having open houses so people can come and meet us and see what we do here at the police department. We do a lot more than just throwing people in jail. But the bottom line is for us to have the type of community that we all want, we have to minimize and reduce the volume of crime that's robbing people of that quality of life. So, we can do two things at the same time and I'm committed to that.

Jonathan Linden: Well, newly appointed San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman, thank you so much for taking some time to speak with me.

Darren Goodman: You're welcome, Jonathan. Thanks for having me.

Jonathan Linden was a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and served with the station till October 2022.