S. E. Williams |
On Friday, April 1 the City of San Bernardino announced the appointment of Darren Goodman to serve as the city’s chief of police.
The nationwide search for the right candidate seemed exorbitantly long—the search took nearly three years—and in the interim, many in the community called for transparency and the fair consideration of Black candidates in the selection. Goodman will be the first African-American police chief to lead the San Bernardino Police Department in its 116-year history.
Community leader and among the strongest advocates for inclusion and opportunities for qualified Blacks to be considered to lead the city’s police agency, Chair of the San Bernardino NAACP Legal Redress Committee Hardy Brown Sr. responded to the announcement stating, “I am overjoyed with the selection of Darren Goodman as Police Chief. . . I am looking forward to seeing him serve in this capacity.”
In an exclusive interview with the Black Voice News Chief Goodman acknowledged what that represents. “[I] know how meaningful it is to people who look like me. I know how meaningful it would be–even to my mother–if she were alive.”
Even as Goodman embraces the honor of being the ‘first’ he also embraces the importance of being the ‘next’. “I am here to be a good police chief. I am here to be the police chief for everybody,” he assured, acknowledging how his job will not be evaluated by his pigmentation but by his performance.
Background and qualifications
With a law enforcement career that spans more than 31 years, Goodman comes to San Bernardino from the City of Upland, where he spent the last four years as its chief of police.
In addition, he holds a master’s degree in Public Administration and Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership from USC. Goodman has also completed law enforcement and leadership programs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, the POST Command College Program and serves as an Adjunct-Professor at California State University, San Bernardino.
When Goodman assumes his San Bernardino post on June 1, he will join a department with 262 sworn officers and 150 civilian staff.
In many ways accepting the position in San Bernardino is like coming home for Goodman. “During the early years of my career, several of my assignments were in San Bernardino. I am very familiar with the city, many community members, and the high caliber of police officers that work at the San Bernardino Police Department. I am not oblivious to the challenges the city has had in the past, but I believe in the potential of San Bernardino.”
Prior to serving as chief in Upland, he was a captain with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. During his 27 years with the department, Goodman’s roles included serving as the police chief for the Chino Hills Police Department and commander of the Frank Bland Regional Training Center. He also worked in Corrections, Patrol, Narcotics, Emergency Operations, Regional Gang Enforcement, Fugitive Apprehension, and SWAT.
“Chief Goodman brings to San Bernardino a wealth of experience, leadership, and knowledge of this region,” said San Bernardino City Manager Robert D. Field. “We are very pleased that he will be joining us.”
As chief, one of the first things Goodman plans to do to help build bridges between the police department and the community is to facilitate a listening tour. “You have to be able to hear people in order to build bridges,” he stressed. “My goal is to listen to my officers, to hear their perspectives regarding what they believe we need to do to better serve the needs of the community. As important, he continued, will be his outreach to community leaders and different community groups to “find out how they feel about the service they are receiving from the police department, as well as how safe they feel or don’t feel in their respective communities.”
His next steps, he explained, will be to complete an informal gap analysis to figure out what the department can do better while also determining strategies to achieve the desired improvements.
When discussing his methods Goodman advised, “My leadership style is that it is not about me, it is about us.” He defines us as the community, the police, and the city council. “I must operate off a shared vision that encompasses all of these different groups.”
What comes with his experience
Beyond his strategic approach to solutions, Goodman discussed personal attributes he feels will enable him to best serve the community and the department in his new role especially in respect to tensions that often haunt relationships between police and Black communities. “When it comes to issues of race, I understand the dynamics on both sides,” he offered highlighting how “understanding” is one of the personal attributes he will bring to the job along with his experience and commitment.
“I understand how some of the experiences people have had, frames how they feel and I would be sensitive to that. I also understand that people doing the job of law enforcement will have experiences and they also have a job to do, and I understand that as well.”
Goodman added, “I think I would be able to communicate effectively with any group based on the experiences that they’ve had and bring an understanding of that experience and my commitment to the table to help solve problems.”
Policing those experiencing a mental health crisis
Among the many issues related to policing that gained traction in recent years involves public calls for police to respond differently when responding to a mental health crisis as a way to reduce the potential for negative outcomes by engaging mental health experts as part of the police response on such calls.
Goodman considers this a great idea that comes with some challenges that have to be worked out.
“The clear and obvious point of agreement is that police—by themselves—should not be responsible for handling mental health issues.”
There is a mix of the mentally ill and those who abuse drugs who can experience a crisis and often it can be difficult to separate the two, he explained while also acknowledging how drug addiction and mental illness are almost synonymous.
In addition, there is also the issue of capacity that needs to be developed and supported at the state and county levels, explaining how we do not have enough places to accommodate those in crisis. “Clearly, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. It has to be a more comprehensive approach.”
A message to the community
In accepting the position as San Bernardino’s new police chief, Goodman is clear-eyed. He acknowledges the city has had its challenges. “I know that there are a lot of people who expect great things, and they deserve them. They deserve to have their communities safe. They deserve not to be victimized by crime. My job is public safety. I want them to know that I am going to be committed to ensuring that the quality of their lives improves.
Goodman also recognizes the important role support will play in his ability to successfully realize his commitment. “It will not happen without the support of the community, without the support of the city council,” and of course, his team.
“I can’t do it all by myself, but I am committed to doing everything I can to improve the quality of life for the residents and business owners of San Bernardino.