LA TIMES – 12/1/21
Huntington Beach has hired a Surf City native to guide its police force.
The Huntington Beach City Council approved the hiring of Eric Parra as police chief by a 6-0-1 vote in a special meeting Wednesday afternoon. Councilman Erik Peterson was absent.
Parra, 57, is currently the police chief of the city of Alhambra, a position he’s held since this past March. He came to Alhambra after 31 years of experience with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where he reached the rank of division chief before leaving in 2019.
Parra, who said he will start Dec. 27, takes over for interim chief Julian Harvey, who was hired in November 2020 after Robert Handy retired. He has been living in Huntington Beach since 1993, and said he intends this to be his last position in law enforcement.
“It is a remarkable feeling,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where I work, I give 200% wherever I’m at. But to go to work everyday, put in effort in my community, then drive home and see it coming together … that’s the world to me. Now, if there’s something I put into play that’s not working, I’ll know it when I’m on the way home. I’ll know it when I’m driving around, when I go to the store. It will give me the opportunity to constantly measure whether I’m effective or not.”
Parra holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Long Beach and a law degree from Western State. He is licensed by the State Bar of California. Through his career he helped lead Los Angeles County jail system reforms, community policing programs and a variety of patrol initiatives.
He said public trust, transparency and accountability are challenges for law enforcement in general right now. In terms of Huntington Beach specifically, he identified homelessness and proper policing for large events as two key issues.
“We need to figure out how to partner better with our local, state and federal partners to have full wraparound services and full connection with other services,” Parra said, addressing homelessness. “It’s not just law enforcement, it [should be] everybody working together from a government, nonprofit and community perspective to help homeless people reach a level where they’re not homeless, they’re employable and they’re functional in society.”
The city launched a mobile mental health crisis response team in a partnership with Be Well OC this year, freeing up police officers.
“What I want to do is find out from the community what they believe the officers should do with that time,” Parra said. “What type of enforcement efforts would they like to see? Then, we’re using that time for something that’s productive and something that the community wants.”
Huntington Beach City Council members commended Harvey for his service, particularly during a turbulent time for the city. At the same time, they said they look forward to working with Parra.
“Besides the chemistry and the personality and the stellar qualifications, we have a hometown hero in our next chief,” City Councilman Mike Posey said, addressing Parra. “You live here, and that’s comforting to know.”
Mayor Kim Carr said the first time she met Parra, “I went, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy’s serious.’”
“You were a little bit imposing,” she said. “Then once we got to know you, you’re a really funny guy. You have a great sense of humor, and it was fascinating to see that whole evolution. I’m really looking forward to getting to know you.
“Our city absolutely adores our police officers, and we support them. This is a community that will support you, and this is a council that will support you. If there’s anything that you need, just let us know because we’ve got your back.”