Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Urban Planning Leads To Hayward's First Female Police Chief

New Hayward Police Chief
Diane Urban is a member of
CSUEB Athletic Hall of Fame 
HAYWARD - When Diane Urban was slinging the discus for record-breaking distance up the hill at then-Cal State Hayward, she did not imagined her career would come full-circle as its first female police chief.

"Never," said Urban after her historic swearing-in ceremony Tuesday afternoon at Hayward City Hall. "I always thought the trick is not to get too far in front of yourself."

Before starting a career in law enforcement, Urban was a two-time Division II All-American in the discus. She also holds the school record in javelin during her stint on the hill from 1982-85. She was enshrined in the school's Hall of Fame in 1992.

Urban later turned in athletic projectiles for ballistics leading to a 25-year career at the San Jose Police Department. She was named assistant chief of police just this January before being hired to replace Police Chief Ron Ace in Hayward.

Hayward's new top cop is described as direct and energetic. Her enthusiasm after receiving her badge Tuesday afternoon was evident as she routinely punctuated her speech with wide smiles and firm embraces.

Despite the historic day in Hayward, Urban's ceiling-shattering appointment was never mentioned during the short 15-minute ceremony. It was not by omission, some said, but poignant in the fact gender barriers are being breached more and more often.

"It's not a big deal anymore for a city to hire a female city attorney or police chief, said Lucy Carlton, a retired Los Altos police chief.  "It's not an exception, but the most qualified getting the job." Carlton, herself, is much-admired pioneer among a growing crop of female police officers in the Bay Area.

Twenty years ago this month, Carlton became the first female police chief in Northern California and third in the state when she assumed the job in Los Altos. "During the ceremony, I felt some much pride for her," said Carlton. "I almost felt like I could cry." Her protegees affectionately call her "The Godmother," if not for her firm hand, but also her Sicilian background.

As more political bodies become more diverse, she says, more women and minorities will rise to positions of greater authority. Today, 23 women lead police departments across the state, including 8 in the Bay Area. San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli became that city's first female chief last January.

Despite the influx of women leading the traditionally male-centric police departments, growing pains are still evident. El Cerrito Police Chief Sylvia Moir says change is uncomfortable no matter what line of work you do. "Not many people can take too much change, too quickly," she said.

"A lot of us are battle-tested in different ways," she added. "I think regardless of gender, if you are like Diane--direct and have integrity--you will be successful regardless." Nevertheless, she offered Urban, who she has known for many years, this advice: "The greatest thing you can do is increase your capacity for disappointing people," she uttered with a grin.

Urban inherits a police department stabilized by former chief Ron Ace, but still facing difficult decisions as the community voices fear over important quality of life issues like a rise in homicide, gang activity and graffiti.

Her experience with gang injunctions while in San Jose should also help Hayward as it moves toward employing the controversial law enforcement tool sometime in the next year. "They are not a panacea," she said. "If deployed judiciously, I think we will help this community come together and feel safer." -

Some in San Jose may say Urban has already accrued significant experience leading a vastly larger police force in the South Bay. According to the San Jose Mercury News, San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore has travelled out-of-state 12 times during his first six months on the job, putting Urban at the helm of day-to-day activities on a regular basis. Moore was not in attendance Tuesday for Urban's swearing-in because of a planned vacation. -Steven Tavares


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