Chief David Bejarano Ends 35-Year Police Career
Law enforcement officials from various agencies, friends, and family members gathered at the Chula Vista Police Department’s headquarters on Thursday to celebrate the career of out-going Police Chief David Bejarano.
Bejarano, 59, ended his 35-year law enforcement career this week and will officially retire on December 30 after having first served as San Diego Police Chief, U.S. Marshall of the Southern California Division, and finally as Chula Vista’s top cop. Before becoming a San Diego police officer, Bejarano served four years in the United States Marine Corp.
“We can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for Chula Vista PD,” said Captain Roxana Kennedy, who this week was selected to replace Bejarano as Chula Vista’s next Police Chief, and the first woman to lead the department.
The region’s top law enforcement officials were on hand to praise Bejarano, including San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, County Probation Department Chief Adolfo Gonzalez, and local FBI leader Eric Birnbaum, as well as dozens of regional police and fire department officials. Local elected officials also participated, including Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas-Salas, Chula Vista City Attorney Glen Googins, and several current and former council members.
Several ceremony speakers praised Bejarano’s leadership and toughness, but also his kindness and humility.
“You’re confident, there’s no doubt you knew what you were doing with all that experience and you know what it means to be a leader, and you’re humble,” said San Diego FBI Director Eric Birnbaum. “Your head stayed small and you enjoy the success of the people who work for you,” Special Agent Birnbaum added.
Bejarano’s long career in law enforcement began in 1979 when he became a rookie police officer. He rose through the ranks and also served on the SDPD SWAT team. In 1999, Bejarano was selected as San Diego’s Chief of Police, becoming the first Latino to head the City’s police force. In 2003, he retired from the SDPD, but was soon appointed by then-President George W. Bush to serve as United States Marshall for the Southern District of California in charge of federal prisoners in both San Diego and Imperial Counties. After two years on the job, Bejarano retired from the Marshall service.
Two years later, Bejarano launched a political campaign for San Diego County Sheriff against newly-appointed Sheriff Bill Gore. Bejarano was aggressively vying for the countywide law enforcement position when the job of Chula Vista’s Police Chief became available. Bejarano abandoned his campaign and was appointed as Police Chief in August 2009.
During today’s retirement ceremony, Bejarano thanked then-Chula Vista City Manager Jim Sandoval for giving him the opportunity to lead the police department of the city Bejarano and his family had called home for many years.
Bejarano’s replacement, Captain Roxana Kennedy, will assume the leadership role of the department on December 30. Kennedy, a 24-year Chula Vista PD veteran, is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, and currently heads the CVPD’s Patrol Operations Division. Captain Kennedy was also the first woman in the department’s history to be promoted to lieutenant and captain.
“Without a doubt, she’s more than prepared and experienced to take the department to the next level,” Bejarano said of Kennedy during Thursday’s ceremony. Bejarano will swear-in Kennedy as Chief on December 30th.
At the end of Thursday’s retirement ceremony, the Department’s officers conducted a traditional walkout ceremony to honor Bejarano as he left the Police Headquarters for the last time as their leader.
As dozens of officers in dress uniforms saluted their Chief, Bejarano made a final call over the police radio. Bejarano, flanked by his wife, children, and grandchildren, then walked to his waiting car to the tune of bagpipes, with a fire department ladder truck hoisting a large American flag at the corner of F Street and Fourth Avenue. Just as he was boarding his car, a SDPD helicopter conducted a low altitude flyby to honor their colleague.
“This is what I love doing,” Bejarano said as he prepared to leave the ceremony. “It’s tough to walk away,” he concluded, his eyes showing just a bit of tearing.