Hail to the Chief! Of police, that is.
Congratulations to Mike Harden, who, after serving in an interim capacity for eight months, this week was officially named Modesto's police chief.
We think he is the perfect choice to head the Modesto Police Department he joined 26 years ago.
From the day Police Chief Roy Wasden left to become Turlock's city manager, Harden showed he had the right stuff to lead the department of roughly 230 sworn officers.
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"This is an opportunity that I cherish," Harden said at the time, "and I'm going to do the best job I can."
We think he did.
Despite his interim status, Harden didn't play it safe, instead moving quickly to address a number of pressing issues and challenges, from dealing with the public safety piece of the city budget crisis to responding to a schoolyard shooting to addressing department morale to cracking down on gang violence through a department reorganization and outreach programs.
In short, City Manager Greg Nyoff was smart to see that there was no need to conduct an extensive and expensive nationwide search.
Sometimes that's necessary, but not in this case.
In Harden, Nyhoff had an almost perfect candidate. He was familiar with the area — he grew up in Modesto and got his first taste of police work as an Explorer Scout while a student at Davis High. He had a long and stellar career with the MPD — he joined the department as an officer in 1984. He had proven experience as a leader — he headed a homicide unit in the late 1990s, and had served as Wasden's assistant chief since 2003.
In addition, we've seen some things we've liked during Harden's interim stint, from his public presence after the shooting at Catherine Everett School to an increased openness and accountability as evidenced by the department publicly accepting blame for a spectacular two-car injury accident last month.
All of that — his impressive background, his performance as interim chief, his priorities (as he shares on the adjacent page) and personal qualities — has us optimistic that Harden will prove to be the kind of police chief that Modesto needs and deserves.