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Arcadia, a WWII incarceration site, names its first police chief of Japanese descent

Roy Nakamura will be Arcadia's first police chief of Japanese descent.
(Roy Nakamura)

Since 1903, there have been 29 leaders of the Arcadia Police Department.

The new chief, announced this week, will mark a unique place in the city’s history when he takes over the job from retiring Chief Robert T. Guthrie on Jan. 9.

Capt. Roy Nakamura, a 28-year veteran of the department, will become the first police chief of Japanese descent of the city where about 19,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were temporarily incarcerated at the Santa Anita Park racetrack during World War II. Most lived in converted horse stalls before being transferred to officially designated camps in California, Arizona and elsewhere.

“It’s progress,” said Nakamura, 56. “Obviously, I wasn’t here during those times, and not everything in history has been positive, but we’re also here to learn from our mistakes, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in the city of Arcadia.”

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Nakamura will also become the first Asian American police chief in a city where 61% of residents identify as Asian Americans.

“I’m looking forward to the honor and privilege of leading the men and women of this department,” Nakamura said. “This is an outstanding community to work in and I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

The Guam native, who holds a bachelor’s degree in social science from Cal Poly Pomona, began his career in 1992 as a police officer and moved up the ranks, later serving as a field training officer and then a detective specializing in forgery and fraud.

Nakamura was promoted to sergeant in 2002, to lieutenant in 2009 and to captain in 2019. In between he held positions such as watch commander, detective bureau commander and force training unit commander.

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“Roy is exceptionally qualified to lead the Arcadia Police Department,” City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto said in a statement. “Over the years I have known him, I have seen that Roy is conscientious, progressive, and dedicated to keeping Arcadia safe.”

Nakamura takes over for another career officer in Guthrie, who joined the department as a cadet in 1989 and was appointed chief in 2011.

“We appreciate all those who have risen to the call of service as Arcadia police chief,” Mayor Roger Chandler said in a statement. “Captain Nakamura continues in the long line of excellence in law enforcement leadership that this community has come to expect and enjoy from its police department.”


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