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Chief Hahn promotes community policing

Newly sworn-in police chief wants officers to know residents' names and vice versa
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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When Daniel Hahn’s young daughter heard he accepted the job as Roseville’s new police chief, she was upset.

She didn’t want her dad to change jobs — she liked the uniform he wore as a Sacramento Police Department captain. Hahn, 42, assured her he would get to wear a uniform in Roseville, too. That made her feel better.

“I got the seal of approval from her,” Hahn said.

The captain built a legacy around outreach to neighborhoods, schools and the community during his 23 years with Sacramento police.

But his two daughters, ages 4 and 6, and his wife Katrina, a teacher in Elk Grove, supported his tough decision to leave the city that raised him for this new opportunity.

Hahn took his oath of office Friday in front of a packed crowd at Roseville Theater. He’ll replace outgoing Chief Mike Blair, who retires in April. He will oversee 123 sworn officers and a $29 million budget, earning an annual salary of $174,000. He is Roseville's first African American chief.

His hiring in February followed a nationwide search that attracted 62 applicants, six who rose to the top and underwent a rigorous interview process with three panels comprised of community leaders and law enforcement experts from around the region.

During a panel meeting, City Manager Ray Kerridge asked the group, “Who’s our guy?”

“They all said (Hahn), no exceptions,” Kerridge said at the swearing-in ceremony. “I wasn’t going to argue with 16 community leaders.”

Aldo Pineschi, former president of Roseville Chamber of Commerce, is one of those leaders.

“In getting to meet and interview new Police Chief Hahn, I would say his background and especially his leadership capabilities are a perfect fit for Roseville,” Pineschi said. “From a local business standpoint, his experience with community policing will help him work closely with local business owners. He’s going to do a great job.”

The city that raised him

Hahn was adopted three months after his birth and raised in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood. His mom, Mary Jean Hahn, had two biological children and wanted a third. But her daughter has hydrocephalus and she worried about having another child with a disability.

She and her husband decided to adopt. They wanted a biracial child after reading in a magazine that mixed-race babies are least adopted. Hahn was born to a black man and white woman.

Hahn’s adoptive father had Marfan syndrome — he was 6’4 — and died when his son was only 5 years old. His mom’s second husband died of brain cancer when Hahn was in high school.

In 1992, he met his biological father and the two developed a good relationship before the older man passed away. He never met his biological mom.

Growing up, Hahn says Mary Jean taught him the importance of community service, knowing their neighbors and always doing what’s right. At 9 years old, he witnessed a homicide in front of his house — he immediately provided police with a statement.

Hahn graduated from Sacramento High School and attended community college. One day, a police recruiter handed him an application.

“I had never even thought about being a cop,” Hahn said.

He passed the required tests and learned he could make about $8 an hour — much more than his salary working at a men’s clothing store in Florin Mall. He graduated from the academy and when he turned 21, became a police officer.

Hahn earned a degree in business administration from California State University, Sacramento.

Soon, he got community-policing assignments. He didn’t handle calls but devoted more time to the long-term solving of crimes. For instance, he would talk to landlords of apartments known as drug dealers’ hangouts to try and permanently stop the revolving drug house door.

One night, he was on patrol and got a call that his stepbrother — who was involved with the local drug scene — was in trouble. Hahn rushed to his brother’s house and found him dead, killed by his drug-dealing partner.

Eventually, Hahn founded the Grant High School Criminal Justice Magnet Academy, which he calls one of his best assignments. He also coached the school’s softball team.

Five years ago, he became a captain. He used to tell himself he’d never be “one of those supervisor people.” But with more than two decades of experience he had a good grasp on his job and wanted to do more — maybe become a chief.

“After a while, you start going, ‘I’d like to try that,’” Hahn said. “Instead of just playing it out in your mind, but actually doing it.”

Community policing

In Sacramento, Hahn built a legacy of community policing — a practice and philosophy he plans to apply in Roseville.

As commander of Sacramento’s North Area substation, he sent out several e-mails a week alerting residents to crimes, describing suspects, listing useful laws and websites. He joined neighborhood Yahoo groups to share information and see residents’ concerns. He encouraged beat officers to familiarize themselves with people in the neighborhoods they patrolled, and vice versa.

“This isn’t some occupying army that comes into a neighborhood,” Hahn said. “I want police officers to think, ‘This is Mrs. Johnson’s street. How dare you deal drugs on Mrs. Johnson’s street?’”

As a result, residents will increase their trust in law enforcement, call the police more often with tips and feel invested in keeping their communities safe. Wherever a safe neighborhood exists or a drastic reduction of crime occurrs, it’s not just because of police but because of active residents, Hahn said.

This focus on community policing appealed to hiring panel member Werner Kuehn, president of Roseville Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. Kuehn said the candidate described himself and his vision as “Relentless for Roseville.”

“He went on to say this means that if you face problems or obstacles, you press on,” Kuehn said.

He said Hahn shared his successes and struggles in the diverse neighborhoods of North Sacramento, Del Paso Heights and Natomas.

“I was impressed with his commitment to reaching out to those neighborhoods in town hall style meetings, standing up and answering the tough questions,” Kuehn said. “He clearly enjoyed this type of police work. I can see him not only strongly supporting, but dramatically improving, what Roseville Police has already been doing with community policing.”

As for Hahn, he’s ready to take the helm and prove there’s no “and” in between police and community.

“The police are part of the community,” Hahn said. “So why would you say it twice? In order to get something done, it has to be together.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.