Irvine’s new deputy chief finds inspiration in daily acts of her rank-and-file police officers

By Greg Hardesty

Irvine’s history-making new deputy chief didn’t need to prepare any remarks for her swearing-in ceremony this week.

Julia Engen, the first female deputy chief in the history of the Irvine PD, found enough inspiration during 10 minutes at the end of her regular shift Tuesday, the night before her swearing-in Dec. 2.

A sergeant walked into her office and told Engen about two life-saving incidents that day involving rank-and-file cops.

In one, an Irvine officer performed CPR on an ailing resident.

In the second incident, a quick-thinking officer used a strap from her boot to stop an arterial bleed.

When Engen got home Tuesday night, she realized she didn’t need to prepare any remarks.

She realized that sharing the last minutes of Tuesday’s shift, and multiplying that by the 21 years she’s been a cop in Irvine, would just scratch the surface of how proud she is “to serve with some of the most hard-working, professional and ethical police officers you will ever meet.”

Known as a great leader who rolls up her sleeves and digs in when something needs to get done, Engen was sworn in by new IPD Chief Mike Hamel at a ceremony that included retired Irvine Lt. Al Murray, a Tustin councilmember and former mayor, and Dave Maggard, Hamel’s predecessor.

Engen thanked Maggard for his mentoring and Hamel for the opportunity to become the highest-ranking woman in the history of the IPD.

Julia Engen, left, is congratulated by Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel after she was sworn in sworn in as Irvine PDÕs new deputy chief during a ceremony at Irvine City Hall. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Julia Engen, left, is congratulated by Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel after she was sworn in as the Irvine PD’s first female deputy chief during a ceremony at Irvine City Hall on Dec. 2.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

She also thanked City Manager Sean Joyce, who attended her swearing-in, for his recent comments about how confident he is in the law enforcement agency’s management team.

Hamel mentioned how Engen bravely battled cancer in 2012-13 and didn’t let weekly chemotherapy treatment get in the way of her role as agency spokesperson when the IPD was in the spotlight following the saga of the former LAPD officer whose headline-grabbing rampage included the murders of Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence in Irvine.

“She found a way to be here every day,” Hamel told the crowd, which included Engen’s three children and sister-in-law. “She placed her position and her responsibility to the community above her own personal health and did a really (good) job.

“That was an incredible tribute to her work ethic and an example of how she’s been living her life and living her career.”

Julia Engen smiles during her speech for those gathered at Irvine City Hall after she was sworn in sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Julia Engen smiles during her speech for those gathered at Irvine City Hall.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

After attending Basic Academy as an independent recruit in 1992, Engen began her career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, working in the Women’s Jail.

In 1994, she moved to the Irvine Police Department and racked up a lot of firsts.

In addition to working as a patrol officer, Engen was a member of the department’s first formal recruiting team, first High-Risk Youth Intervention Team, first Police/Private Security Partnership group, and was the first school resource officer assigned to the City’s continuation high school.

In 2003, Engen was promoted to sergeant and served supervisory assignments in nearly every area of the department including operations, CSI, training and recruitment, K9s, investigations, dispatch, administration, youth services, traffic and operations support, animal services, and custody.

In 2010, Engen was promoted to lieutenant. In that role, she spent four years as the department’s spokesperson. In 2014, she was promoted to commander and assumed responsibly for delivery of police services to the 21-square-mile Crossroads area of the city.

Julia Engen, bottom right, receives a standing ovation after being sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief at the Irvine’s City Council Chambers. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Julia Engen receives a standing ovation after being sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Also as a commander, Engen established operating priorities and long-term planning, and oversaw more than 100 employees including sworn officers, professional, technical, clerical and volunteer staff.

She also managed the Crime Prevention Unit, Private Security Partnership and preventative and victim-centered programs including the Citizen and Senior Police Academy, Victim Services Program, Volunteers, College Intern Program, Employee Recognition Program and Annual Awards Banquet.

Engen has held many community leadership positions, including as a current Advisory Board Member of the Orange County Trauma Intervention Program and Chair of the California Chiefs of Police Women Leaders in Law Enforcement Southern California Region.

She previously served as a member of the Irvine Unified School District School Attendance Review Board, as the Irvine Police Department representative for the Irvine Coalition for Drug Prevention, and as a panel member of the Project Success High Risk Youth Intervention Team.

Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada congratulates Julia Engen after she was sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada congratulates Engen after she was sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Engen also has volunteered with Girl Scouts of America as a Troop Leader and with Boy Scouts of America as a Den/Troop Leader.

Engen has received awards, commendations and honors for her service including Sen. Lou Correa’s “Women Making a Difference” award, the Outstanding Supporter of Prevention Award from Irvine Community Drug Prevention, and Graduate with Department Honors from California State University, Long Beach and the University of La Verne.

She has received numerous recognitions from the Irvine Police Department including as recipient of the Unit Award in the Office of Professional Development, twice as Employee of the Quarter, and three times with the Meritorious Service Award.

Engen holds a Master of Arts in Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach, and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration from the University of La Verne.

She also is a graduate of the Senior Management Institute for Police — Police Executive Research Forum and the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute — Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training.

Steven Georges contributed to this story.

Julia Engen talks to those gathered at Irvine City Hall after she was sworn in sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Julia Engen talks to those gathered at Irvine City Hall after she was sworn in sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Julia Engen talks to those gathered at Irvine City Hall after she was sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Members of Women Leaders In Law Enforcement (Southern California) gather with Irvine PD's new Deputy Chief Julia Engen, center, at the conclusion of a swearing-in ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Members of Women Leaders In Law Enforcement (Southern California) gather with the Irvine PD’s new Deputy Chief Julia Engen at the conclusion of a swearing-in ceremony. From left are Fullerton PD Sgt. Kathryn Hamel, Costa Mesa PD Lt. Joyce LaPointe, Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. Capt. Sheryl Dubski, Irvine PD Det. Kristi Valentine, Engen, retired Irvine Sgt. Carrie Egan, Irvine Lt. Cathy Schrer, former Cypress PD Chief Jackie Gomez-Whiteley and Newport Beach PD Sgt. Rachel Johnson. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Mayor and past recipient of the Irvine PD's Medal of Valor, Al Murray, gives Julia Engen a congratulatory hug after she was sworn in as Irvine PD's new deputy chief. Murray is a retired police lieutenant who was with the Irvine PD. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin councilman and past recipient of the Irvine PD’s Medal of Valor, Al Murray, gives Julia Engen a congratulatory hug after she was sworn in as Irvine PD’s new deputy chief.
Murray is a retired police lieutenant who was with the Irvine PD.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC