Sacramento's first black police chief aims to heal embattled department
Wearing a thick, dark blue jacket marked with a Sacramento Police Department emblem on each arm, Daniel Hahn smiled as he hugged longtime friends and family Friday.
The jacket had sat in his closet for more than six years while he was the top cop at the Roseville Police Department. It served as a reminder of his time with the Sacramento Police, where he began his career as a community service officer in 1987 and rose to the rank of captain.
On Friday, Hahn, a longtime resident of the city’s Oak Park neighborhood, put on the jacket again. He wore it during his swearing-in ceremony as the new chief of the Sacramento Police Department.
“It’s good to be home,” he said at the ceremony.
Hahn is the 45th person to hold the chief’s office and the first black man to do so. Next month, he will celebrate 30 years in law enforcement.
The swearing-in ceremony took place at the University Union Ballroom at Sacramento State University, Hahn’s alma mater. The room, which can hold more than 2,000 people, was nearly full with uniformed officers and community members. A choir sang to the crowd.
The new chief hugged his adoptive mother, Mary Hahn, at the ceremony. His wife, two daughters and about three dozen family members, friends and city leaders all stood beside him on stage.
“Today represents a new beginning of Sacramento, and it is full of hope, pride and excitement,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg told the crowd.
Hahn spoke about the important roles his mother, Oak Park neighbors and police mentors had played in his success.
“I’m here because my community carried me here,” he said. “Sacramento carried me here.”
Hahn was raised by his adoptive mother, who was twice widowed and a single parent for most of his life. He recalled going to friends’ homes as a child, connecting with families in the Oak Park neighborhood.
He began working with the Sacramento Police Department while attending community college in 1987, seeing it as short-term way to earn extra income. The job eventually grew on him, and he became a patrol officer two years later.
Hahn worked his way up the ranks. He was a problem-oriented officer in the Del Paso Heights and Strawberry Manor neighborhoods and taught teens in the department’s Criminal Justice Academy at Grant Union High School. He became a sergeant and later a captain overseeing the investigations unit.
Hahn worked closely with Councilwoman Angelique Ashby over the years. Ashby was a community organizer when she first met him.
“They love him in Natomas just as much as they love him in south Sacramento,” she said. “He gets us and gets what Sacramento is about.”
Hahn acknowledged he will have to have crucial conversations with community members as the department’s leader. His return comes at a time when the relationship between law enforcement and residents has been strained by more than a year of high-profile officer-involved shootings and other critical incidents.
That includes the fatal shooting of Joseph Mann, an armed, mentally-ill black man who was shot by two Sacramento Police Department officers in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood in July 2016.
Some community members criticized the department following the shooting, asking if it was necessary for the officers to use deadly force. Videos of the incident were released by police only after growing pressure from the public.
Sam Somers Jr., the police chief at the time of the incident, announced his retirement two months after the shooting. While Somers denied his departure was related to the Mann case, city officials said Somers faced growing anger over it.
The Sacramento County District Attorney determined both officers, John Tennis and Randy Lozoya, acted lawfully in the shooting, though city leaders said later they moved to fire Tennis. Lozoya retired in April.
In November, the Sacramento City Council passed a police reform package intended to address community concerns over transparency and oversight of the department.
Those reforms included the creation of a new community oversight commission and a video-release policy that requires the department to release footage in officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths and incidents reported to the Office of Public Safety Accountability within 30 days, as long as it does not interfere with an ongoing investigation.
Sacramento made national headlines again in April after a video posted by neighbors showed a Sacramento police officer repeatedly punching a Del Paso Heights pedestrian in the face after the man refused the officer’s commands to stop for allegedly jaywalking.
“We have to all come together and value every person,” Hahn said ahead of Friday’s ceremony. “The first part of that is, how do we come together?”
Hahn faces another major hurdle in hiring and retaining officers. Facing decreased public support and less pay than officers in nearby departments, many have departed to other agencies, said Tim Davis, the Sacramento Police Department union president.
City Manager Howard Chan said Hahn represented a merging between community and law enforcement.
“Not only did we hire the best candidate in the country, but we also have the opportunity to welcome here today somebody who started their career here in Sacramento,” Chan said. “To say that he is beloved by our community is a bit of an understatement.”