Irvine Appoints a Chief of Police


A former lawyer with a reputation for reform will be Irvine's new police chief, officials said Monday.

Michael Berkow, 46, has headed the Police Department in South Pasadena since 1997. His appointment in Irvine is effective Aug. 13.

"He's got tremendous experience both on the international and national level," Irvine City Manager Allison Hart said. "He is very bright, very energetic, very technically skilled, and he understands the field of public safety."

The new chief will succeed Charles Brobeck, who recently announced his retirement after a decade on the job.

One of Berkow's first tasks is likely to be moving the city toward geographic-based policing, Hart said. "Our policing was originally organized this way, but then we drifted away from it," she said.

By assigning police officers to patrol neighborhoods rather than respond to calls citywide, "They would become familiar with the people, businesses and types of crime problems" associated with their area, Hart said. "The more you can be familiar with an area, the better you can respond."

Berkow, who was born in San Antonio and later lived in New York, holds a law degree from Syracuse University.

He has worked for the U.S. Justice Department and Department of State, for which he helped rebuild the police force in war-torn Somalia, helped restore order after turmoil in Haiti and helped oversee elections in Jamaica.

He spent a year working as a 1st Amendment lawyer and another year clerking for a federal judge before joining the Rochester, N.Y., police department, where he led a corruption probe.

Before moving to South Pasadena, he was police chief in Riverside County's Coachella, where he arrested several city officials on a variety of charges.

He was hired in South Pasadena in the wake of a department sex scandal and an FBI probe into charges that authorities had covered up an officer's involvement in a hit-and-run accident.

The chief's salary in Irvine is still being negotiated, Hart said, but will probably be near that of the retiring chief: about $133,000 a year.

Berkow said of his move: "Irvine is a beautiful city. It's a big city with some real complexity of issues, and a unique city that offers some interesting opportunities to do some special kinds of policing. My first agenda is to learn everything I possibly can, most particularly, the city's core values."

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