Speaking in a tone blending enthusiasm and caution, Garden Grove's new police chief announced Friday that he plans to lead the law enforcement agency with his ears, at least at first.
"I have no immediate plans to make great changes," Joseph Polisar, 45, the former chief of police in Albuquerque, told reporters at his first news conference in Garden Grove. "I intend to do a lot of listening."
Polisar replaced Stan Knee, who left Garden Grove to become police chief in Austin, Texas. He told reporters he intends to carry on Knee's focus on community policing and youth crimes, including gang-related problems, Polisar said.
"I don't want to sound corny," he said, "but I believe that the vast majority of the officers, including myself, become officers because they truly want to make a difference in the community and improve the quality of life for their fellow citizens."
With 21 years of experience in fighting crime, Polisar earned a reputation in New Mexico as an accessible chief who was involved in many facets of the community, including the Kiwanis of Albuquerque, the United Way and the American Cancer Society.
His resume listed numerous honors and awards, including the 1995 Human Rights Award from the Albuquerque Human Rights Board and the 1996 NAACP Martin Luther King, Jr. "Keep the Dream Alive" Award.
Polisar graduated from the University of Phoenix and also attended Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Born in Brooklyn in 1952, he became a firefighter in 1970 and later became a police officer. In 1994, he was promoted to lead the 928-officer department in Albuquerque, a city of 425,000. During his tenure there, he strengthened the city's community policing program, improved minority representation on the force and upgraded the area's 911 system.
In a letter of recommendation written by the city's public safety advisory board, members wrote, "One senses, in his commitment to the department, a deep and abiding concern for the city; in his demeanor, a profound respect for the officers who serve under him; in his candor, a willingness to deal with the citizens in an open and honest manner; and in his statement and actions, an underlying vision that will help transform the department in a positive direction."