Chief and the citizen: Sacramento’s new police chief credits his mom for making him think differently about the job

Daniel Hahn was a sergeant when a phone call made him reconsider his professional priorities

This is an extended version of a story that appeared in the August 17, 2017, issue.

Before he left to become a police chief in Roseville and before he returned to accept the job here in Sacramento, Daniel Hahn was a police sergeant taking a call from an unhappy citizen—his mother.

In a sit-down interview with SN&R, Hahn said his mom had called him years ago to complain about an officer who ticketed her neighbor for riding a bicycle the wrong way on a sidewalk in their Oak Park neighborhood. Mary Jean Hahn went on to tell her son that, at the same moment the officer was issuing the citation, a drug dealer was slinging his product in plain view just 40 yards away.

“I said, ‘Mom, he’s a traffic officer. He doesn’t deal with drugs,’” Daniel Hahn recalled. “And she said, ‘I don’t care what kind of officer he is. The man getting the ticket doesn’t cause any problems to my neighborhood. That drug dealer is absolutely killing my neighborhood.’”

Hahn told SN&R he started thinking a lot about the difference between stat-driven police work and purpose-driven police work after that conversation with his mother, who adopted Hahn when he was 3 months old.

Standing in front of 1,200 people last Friday inside Sacramento State University’s Union Ballroom, the city’s new police chief didn’t shy away from the strife and division afflicting his hometown—or how his experience growing up in Oak Park informs his philosophy on tackling it.

“Statistically speaking, I’m not supposed to be standing here today,” said the 49-year-old Hahn, the first black police chief in the city’s history. Looking down at his mother, he added, to rousing applause, “But statistics are no match for Mary Jean Hahn.”

During the August 11 speech, Hahn indicated one of his top priorities will be making sure the most challenged neighborhoods are not left behind. He went on to challenge community members and law enforcement personnel alike to be “less concerned about who has the power and who gets the credit,” and instead work together to make “every corner, every street” a place where kids are safe to grow up.

Ending his address to a standing ovation, Hahn then made his way back to the woman who taught him something about being a good cop.