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CSUSB professor and San Bernardino chief of police reflects on 30-year career

darren goodman
“After more than 30 years, I still love the profession,” said Darren Goodman, a lecturer in criminal justice and chief of police for the San Bernardino Police Department. “I get to work with some of the most dedicated, honorable and courageous people in the world.”

Darren Goodman, a lecturer in criminal justice, began teaching the Law and the Courts class at Cal State San Bernardino in 2014 and now teaches Introduction to Criminal Investigations in the university’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. In June 2022, he was appointed the 41st chief of police for the city of San Bernardino, the first Black man in the department’s 117-year history to be selected for the role.

Previously, Goodman spent 27 years with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department before retiring as a captain. He then became the chief of police for the city of Upland, where he served for four years before being recruited to lead the San Bernardino Police Department. Today, as chief, he leads 310 sworn officers and 150 civilian staff.

Goodman holds a bachelor of science degree in adult education and development from Southern Illinois University, as well as a master’s degree in public administration and a doctoral degree in education in organizational change and leadership from the University of Southern California.

Goodman recently shared his thoughts about his career and teaching at CSUSB.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the field of law enforcement during your career? 

Law enforcement has changed significantly over the course of my career. Some of the more significant changes are the use of technology for investigations, the increased commitment to community engagement, and enhanced training and professionalism. Law enforcement has also changed culturally and become much more diverse and inclusive. The positive changes have improved our service delivery, community trust and legitimacy.

What are the biggest challenges facing law enforcement in San Bernardino?

In San Bernardino, we have made remarkable strides reducing violent crime. Our homicides are down over 50 percent from last year. We have also reduced our response times, which means we arrive faster when people are in need. The biggest challenge we face is the lack of consequence for misdemeanor or repeat offenses. We are arresting the same criminals over and over, which means they are victimizing people repeatedly. Voters were duped into supporting measures that allowed more lenient penalties for theft, possession and use of dangerous drugs and early release of non-violent offenders. This has created a toxic and dangerous cocktail of increased crime, addiction and homelessness that is visibly impacting San Bernardino. 

What were your thoughts/reactions when you learned you would be leading the San Bernardino Police Department? 

I was ecstatic to be chosen as the 41st police chief for the city of San Bernardino, and I still am!  Being chief of police for this city is an honor and a privilege, but it is a tremendous responsibility that I do not take lightly. San Bernardino is the 18th largest city in California and the second largest in the Inland Empire. Every day that I drive to work, I am reminded that each person in this city relies on our department for their safety and well-being. It’s a rather humbling thought, but I know the men and women of my department are up to the challenge and get after it every single day.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role as chief?

I’m proud of the strides we are making as a department. We have implemented some successful enforcement models, increased staffing by more than it has been since 2012 and can boast improvements in measurable areas, like homicides, violent crime and response times. I have tremendous people working with me, and they deserve all the credit for our success. 

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your career?

In my 30-year career, I’ve had opportunities that most every cop would want. I worked on great assignments, like undercover narcotics, SWAT, fugitive apprehension and more. However, now, my proudest accomplishments aren’t the great cases I worked on or accolades that I’ve accumulated. I’m proudest of all the people I’ve got to help in some way. It gives me pleasure when I run into someone I worked with, and they thank me for inspiring them in some way; often in ways I was unaware of.  Or those occasions when a community member tells me they’ve changed their preconceived notions about police because of a conversation they had with me. Those are career moments that make me proud.

What is it about this field that has kept you interested and engaged for more than 30 years?

After more than 30 years, I still love the profession. I get to work with some of the most dedicated, honorable and courageous people in the world. I can say this with confidence because there are very few professions where people voluntarily risk their physical safety and potentially their lives to serve complete strangers, who often take them for granted.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement? 

I love teaching criminal justice at CSUSB because it allows me to engage those young people who would become future civic leaders. Of course, I use the platform to encourage them to go into law enforcement as careers! 

There has never been a better time for those interested in pursuing law enforcement careers.  Almost every agency around is seeking officers, so options are plentiful. I would advise students to consider their “why” before choosing the career or a specific agency. If one is clear about “why” they want to enter the profession, they will never have any regrets.