By Antonio R. Harvey | Observer Staff Writer

After a four-year run as the City of Sacramento’s police chief, Daniel Hahn suddenly announced Wednesday that he would be retiring from the position, effectively at the end of the year. 

Hahn, the Sacramento Police Department’s 45th police chief, is also the first Black person hired as top cop of the city. Sworn in on Aug. 11, 2017, he submitted his resignation to Sacramento City Manager Howard Chan.  

“On this date (Aug. 11), four years ago, I stood with my mother (Mary Jean Hahn), along with our collective community, and was sworn in as the police chief of my hometown,” Hahn said in a written letter. “ We then celebrated together as a community at the park I spent most of my days growing up – McClatchy Park.  Serving as the police chief in the City I was born and raised has been the highest honor of my professional career.”

Between being the police chief for the cities of Sacramento and Roseville over the last 10 years, Hahn, 53, served in a manner that required his attention seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and 365 days a year. 

Transparent California, the state’s largest public and pension database, said Hahn made $440,883 in total pay and benefits in 2019. About $228,283 was in regular pay, $38,481 was listed as other pay, and $80,448 was in the form of benefits.

It’s a grueling job but Hahn said he was all in. He gets service calls in the wee hours of the night and almost no time to have a worry-free vacation with his family. Hahn told The OBSERVER by telephone that the decision to retire was both difficult and one that offered comfort. 

But overall, the timing to leave is necessary, he explained.

“I will always feel like I’m still that 19-year-old kid that started (in law enforcement), Hahn said. “I never thought I would ever be doing something other than this. This job has given me so much meaning and purpose because I always thought I was continuing my mom’s work, not like police work but service work. I just don’t know if I’ll find other work that will fulfill me like that. But it is time. I just didn’t want to retire in the middle of some challenging times.” 

On March 11, 2011, Hahn was hired as the chief of police for the Roseville Police Department after spending 23 years with SPD. He and Rick Bartee were the first African Americans to be the Police Chief and Fire Chief, respectively, for the city of Roseville.

Months after he was appointed chief of Roseville, which is 17 miles north of Sacramento, Hahn was featured on CNN discussing how Roseville was able to reduce traffic citations by 84%.

Chief Hahn, who was born and raised in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, spent six years as the manager of the Roseville Police Department. He left the Sacramento Police force as a captain to get more experience as an administrator.

When the SPD position became available after Sam Somers Jr. retired in June 2017, Hahn was selected to be his successor. Now Hahn has followed in the steps of Somers, Rick Braziel and Albert Najera — all police chiefs over the last 20 years who then retired three or four years after serving in the position. 

“Things have been going relatively OK,” Hahn said of his career. “I felt that it was a special day in my heart and mind because my mom stood with me on this day four years ago while I was sworn in. She passed away a few months after that. Today felt like the right day to announce it and honor my mom. More importantly, it gives the city manager a chance to do a search and select a chief before I leave.” 

It’s not his choice, but Hahn hopes that the search for a replacement starts within the department. There are about 1,000 police officers and staff employees working for SPD and he is confident that one of them can run the local law enforcement agency.

“I think we have a tremendous amount of talent inside the police department,” Hahn said. “With a department this size there are people qualified to do this job. I am pretty sure the city manager will open (the application process) to the outside, which is a good thing too. But I also have confidence that the people inside will outshine those (outside applicants).” 

Jamilia Land, a local police and prison reform activist, has served on panels and community forums with Hahn. The two worked in unison to keep a communication line open between the police department and the African American community.

Land said Hahn’s retirement will not only affect the police department but the community as a whole. He had at times been “ostracized in a certain sense,” she said, by members of the community but at the same time still supportive and helpful.

Land said she believes a section of the community turned their backs on Hahn after the Stephon Clark case, in which two SPD officers were not charged for killing the 22-year-old Black man in the backyard of his grandparents’ house in South Sacramento on March 18, 2018.

“The community of Sacramento doesn’t know what it is in for after he retires,” Land said. “What people don’t know is a lot of things he has done behind the scenes, the work that he has done within the department to genuinely implement, systematic, sustainable change.”

Land continued, “One of my biggest concerns is that the work he has done for the last four years — building bridges with community members, providing community services — all of it is going to go down the drain when he’s gone. I am concerned that we are going to return to the ‘good ole boys’ club.”