San Bernardino Police Chief Burguan, 48, Retires Two Years Early

Two years prior to the time he would otherwise be eligible to do so, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan is retiring today at the age of 48, 27 years after he began with the department.
Paradoxically, as is sometimes the case with law enforcement professionals, the worse day of Burguan’s career launched him into the stratosphere of his vocation, transforming him instantaneously into a celebrity of national and even international standing.
Fate dictated that Burguan was at the helm of the department on December 2, 2015 when Syed Rizwan Farook, a restaurant inspector employed with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, approached and then went into an auditorium at the Inland Regional Center where both a training session and a pre-Christmas banquet for Public Health Department employees was being held. Wearing ski masks, armed with semi-automatic pistols and rifles and clad in load bearing vests holding magazines and ammunition, Farrok and Malik killed two pepole before entering the building and thereafter unleashed a fusillade of more than 100 rounds inside before fleeing. In the process they killed fourteen and wounded 22 of the 86 people present, virtually all of whom had been Malik’s co-workers in the Department of Public Health. Ultimately, some four hours after the initial attack and Farook and Malik had returned to their residence in Redlands and were coming back into San Bernardino, San Bernardino Police officers spotted the couple driving a vehicle rented by Farook four days before the attack, and which the department had identified. Officers gave pursuit and confronted Farook and Malik, at which juncture a shootout ensued on San Bernardino Avenue just east of Sheddon Drive. As more police units arrived to converge on them in and around their vehicles, 23 officers firing a combined total of at least 440 rounds mortally wounded the murderous pair.
Burguan was widely credited with his calm, methodical, vigilant, thorough and ultimately successful response and the coordination of his department’s resources throughout the ordeal. Thereafter, he was in great demand by other departments all over the country for input on preparation for similar emergencies. The highly articulate Burguan found himself torn between what he felt was a legitimate need to contribute to readiness and preparation among agencies throughout the law enforcement industry nationally and his duties in running his own department that was struggling under challenging circumstances that were unrelated to the December 2, 2015 attack. San Bernardino had filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in 2012, and the city’s overall financial condition complicated even further the city’s unenviable position of being what was ranked on one survey as the 16th most dangerous city in the United States with a murder rate that was more than twice the national average.
Despite the opportunities that were presented to him to take on an even more lucrative police chief’s assignment elsewhere, Burguan remained in San Bernardino, even as he was being criticized for his attention sometimes being diffused by requests for his input with regard to response readiness in other jurisdictions.
He began with the San Bernardino Police Department in January 1992, when he was 21. Throughout his time with San Bernardino, he worked in, supervised or managed units in every division of the department, while earning a bachelor’s degree and a masters degree in management from the University of Redlands. In 2012, he sojourned to Boston, where he took graduate courses and graduated from the Senior Management Institute for Police, which is part of the Police Executive Research Forum of Boston University, He also was a member of Class 53 of the California Police Officer Standard and Training College, from which he was provided with a management certificate.
In 2013, he succeeded Robert Handy as police chief.
Burguan for years has made the daily commute from Lake Arrowhead.
He took an extended leave in February to undergo knee replacement surgery. Boosted into the position of his temporary replacement at that time was Eric McBride, who had promoted to the position of assistant chief under Burguan and whom Burguan had supported in that promotion. McBride has now moved into the police chief’s position, which was not previously anticipated as McBride is four years older than Burguan. With the traditional minimum retirement age for police officers being 50, it was previously thought Burguan would most certainly remain with the department at least until he eclipses his 50th birthday in November 2020, and would perhaps remain with the department until 2025, at which point he would maximize his pension at 100 percent of his salary. In 2025, McBride will be 59, somewhat past what is considered the standard retirment age in the law enforcement profession presently.
Burguan’s return from his medical leave for the knee surgery was anticipated in May. One unconfirmed report was that his physician had not cleared him for resuming his duties. The true reason for the delay in his return has not been made clear, however. There are indications that the ascendancy of John Valdivia as San Bernardino mayor may have been a factor in Burguan’s decision not to return. It is an open secret that Valdivia is under investigation by the FBI stemming from reports that money originating from the sale of illegal drugs has been filtered into his personal banking and political campaign accounts, accompanied by reports that the largesse provided to the mayor purchased those donors protection from investigation and arrest by the San Bernardino Police Department and prosecution by the district attorney’s office, and that Valdivia had encouraged the department to step up enforcement efforts against his donors’ competitors in the sale of illicit substances out of storefronts and other businesses within the city. Burguan’s positive reputation as a consequence of his handling of the December 2, 2015 attack has opened doors for his possible employment elsewhere, including at the federal level with the Department of Homeland Security or with big city police departments such as those in Philadelphia or Cleveland, conditional only upon the formality of his making an application. He thus may have decided that returning as police chief in San Bernadino under the current circumstance is too risky and potentially damaging to his prospects elsewhere.
It is unclear whether the city had given him a special dispensation in allowing him to retire at 48.
In an email to police staff that went out on Wednesday and which has since been publicly disclosed and has come too serve as his farewell statement, Burguan wrote, “Any success that I ever had in a leadership position came as a result of good people within the organization doing good work, and I am truly appreciative of each and every one of you and the service that you have provided to the city and the department.”
Mark Gutglueck


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