Twenty-six years ago, I started my law enforcement career in Modesto as a police officer, never thinking or aspiring to be a police chief at that time.
Now it is my distinct honor and privilege to serve as Modesto's next police chief.
Over the last 2½ decades I have seen many changes both in the city and at the police department.
While Modesto has become a more diverse community, the task of delivering effective policing strategies has also become more diverse and complex.
As we move forward, the police department will focus on problems in our community, always taking into consideration the concerns of neighborhoods and citizens.
We will place an emphasis whenever possible on preventing crime, compared to reactive measures, and we will strengthen collaboration with other criminal justice agencies, private sector agencies, the faith- based community and other community groups.
The increased sophistication and violent nature of criminals, along with the proliferation of drugs in our community, makes decreasing crime and disorder more difficult than at any time in the past.
The tough economic environment we find ourselves in, the early release of state inmates into our local community and a burgeoning criminal justice system that competes for limited funding are obstacles to be overcome.
I don't have all the answers, nor can I alone improve the quality of life for Modesto residents.
But together, those of us who make up Modesto -- the business owners, the individual neighborhoods, the police department and others -- can work to ensure the safety of everyone in our community.
We know we can do that. Despite the staffing challenges and the current economic crisis, the MPD and the citizens of our city combined forces to achieve a 6 percent reduction in crime last year.
Robbery and auto theft led the reduction efforts and we are committed to improving on those reductions this year.
I am enthused and encouraged by the "can-do" spirit of the MPD employees and the law-abiding citizens we faithfully serve.
I am fortunate to lead a great team of people who are better educated and motivated to deal with the increasing demands placed upon them.
Together we are ready to meet the challenge of making our city safer, stronger and better.
I am a firm believer in the fair and equal enforcement of the law and in the police department's role to control crime as a key element in our city's viability.
We will constantly evaluate our effectiveness and alter our service delivery and crime reduction strategies to maximize their impact.
As someone who was educated in public schools in Modesto, whose children attended school in Modesto and who lives in Modesto, I care deeply about this community and its citizens and have a vested interest in wanting Modesto to be as safe and clean as possible.
Let's work together to make our great city even better.
Harden is Modesto's new police chief.