Bisa French (B.S. 2012) is the new chief of police of Richmond, California, effective August 1, 2020. She is making history as the first woman and woman of color to take the helm of the 150-member department that serves approximately 102,000 residents in this Bay area city.
Chief French began her career with the Richmond Police Department in 1998. She rose through the ranks, starting in patrol, and in 2006 was promoted to the rank of sergeant. In 2011, she was promoted to lieutenant with responsibility as the Dayshift Watch Commander in patrol. In 2013, she was promoted to the rank of Captain, assuming responsibility for the Central District, Youth Services Bureau, and Traffic Division. In 2016, she became Assistant Chief, and Interim Chief in 2019.
Chief French was born in San Francisco to a Puerto Rican mother and an African American father. Her husband is an Oakland police sergeant and she is the mother of three children. In addition to her bachelor’s degree from Union, she holds a master’s degree in Human Resource Management from Golden Gate University. In a recent interview with NPR, Chief French acknowledged the challenges police are facing for accountability, particularly in the current environment of protests against police brutality. “I do think I’m uniquely situated to understand the challenges that the community is bringing forth, as well as the challenges of being an officer and putting this uniform on. I am Black, and I am blue. … there’s a line that I kind of tote and balance of being a person of color and wearing a blue uniform.”
Chief French told the Mercury News, “I feel for my community and their push for just basic human rights that we’re still fighting for after all this time,” she said. “Yet everything that’s happened after it, and the attacks on law enforcement — I also know what it feels like to be a person that represents this uniform and gets attacked just for that. So, it’s a difficult position to be in, and my perspective of being ‘black and blue’ — as what I call it — is a unique perspective, and I have to use that for the good.”
Richmond City Manager Laura Snideman said in a statement. “I’m delighted to appoint Bisa French, and gratified that our Police Chief is someone of such high quality, impeccable character, and unparalleled local experience. In addition to her outstanding law enforcement qualifications, she’s someone who really knows the people, the issues, and the values and needs of the Richmond community.”
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