Garden Grove native and new Police Chief Tom DaRé was sworn into his role as the city’s 13th police chief on Tuesday night in front of a packed crowd of supporters.
“This is my home and my entire life has been dedicated to serving the city of Garden Grove,” DaRé said before thanking his mentors, police department employees, and his family for their hard work and support.
DaRé’s childhood friend Ric Lerma delivered the oath of address and his wife of 26 years, Jeanine, pinned his new badge in a heartfelt moment on stage.
“I’m truly humbled to have been chosen to lead the men and women of this Garden Grove Police Department into the future,” DaRé said. “I want you to know that I will not let you down and I gladly accept the torch from the successful leaders who have preceded me in this great organization.”
The homegrown chief is a 29-year Garden Grove police employee. He and Jeanine are graduates of Garden Grove High School, located across the street from the Community Meeting Center where the swearing-in was held.
“He’s always been someone I’ve looked up to,” said Brandon DaRé, the chief’s son.
DaRé officially took office April 20, the day Chief Todd Elgin retired.
“I think we’re at the onset of a very exciting new era for the police department and for the city,” said Mayor Steven Jones, who has known DaRé since he went on a ride-along with the then-officer in 1999. “Chief DaRé epitomizes the hometown spirit of Garden Grove and the commitment by law enforcement to serve and protect this community.”
The department is currently hiring, and at full staff will be “the largest it’s ever been in its more than 50-year history, and it will be led by a chief that can motivate, support and encourage teamwork from a committed group of men and women who believe in their cause and in their mission,” Jones said.
Lt. Carl Whitney, who was as a cadet and became an officer the same time as DaRé, applauded his life-long dedication to the organization.
“He’s very enthusiastic about continuing on the great traditions we have here with community policing, customer service, and just keeping the community safe,” Whitney said. “He’s going to do an outstanding job here.”
DaRé got his start as a city employee mowing lawns for the public works department in 1989, his father-in-law said. He joined the police department as a cadet in 1990, became a reserve officer in 1991, and was hired as a recruit in 1992.
Since, he promoted to master officer in 1997, sergeant in 2002, and lieutenant in 2015, City Manager Scott Stiles said. As lieutenant, he oversaw the Special Resource Team homeless task force and the resort district. He promoted to captain in 2017 and was responsible for the patrol, gangs, traffic, narcotics and SWAT teams. He’s received the department’s Medal of Courage and Medal of Merit, as well as Class A commendations, Stiles said.
Stiles said DaRé demonstrates the qualities necessary for a police chief: “great commitment to our community, has the command presence necessary to lead the largest department in our organization, demonstrates humility, is respected by the men and women of the police department, not afraid to make tough decisions, and is a trusted leader throughout the entire community.”
DaRé plans to lead the department in strengthening relationships with the community. He asked police employees to continue focusing on leadership, work ethic, integrity, loyalty, and humility.
“We must elevate this successful endeavor to the next level,” DaRé said. “We need a team approach to be successful in solving the problems in our community, in building a successful partnership with our community and business leaders. Positive community relations is an investment that will provide benefits to our entire city now and in the future.”
The ceremony was attended by local dignitaries including District 1 Councilman George Brietigam III, District 2 Councilman John O’Neill, District 3 Councilwoman Thu-Ha Nguyen, District 4 Councilman Phat Bui, and District 6 Councilwoman Kim Nguyen, as well as Congressman Alan Lowenthal, and representatives from the offices of Congress members Lou Correa and Harley Rouda, State Senator Tom Umberg, and State Assemblyman Tom Daly.
“He was elected unanimously by so many of us,” District 4 Councilman Phat Bui said. “I had the privilege to work with Tom on many things, especially the homeless issue. He’s very responsive and is always out there in the front supporting various communities.”
County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, Garden Grove Unified Board President Lan Quoc Nguyen, and Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Cindy Spindle also were in attendance.
Police and command staff from Garden Grove and other agencies also attended the ceremony, including Cypress Chief Rod Cox, Orange Chief Tom Kisela, Placentia Police Sgt. Bryce Angel, Santa Ana Deputy Chief Eric Paulson and Commander Michael Claborn, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, Orange County District Attorney Bureau Chief Paul Walters, and Chief Probation Officer Steven Sentman.