Twenty-five years ago, Jay Johnson applied to be an officer at three police departments: Long Beach, Irvine and Newport Beach.
By the time Newport called him back for an interview, he already had a job offer from Long Beach. He took it. He stayed there and climbed the ranks.
On Wednesday Johnson, 45, returned to Newport Beach — this time to be sworn in as chief of police.
"Every decision that we make, path that we take, will be made with ethics and integrity," Johnson said, emphasizing the team mentality he pledged to encourage as chief. "To the community, I want to be very accessible and visible. All of us in the city government, we work for the community."
In a light-hearted ceremony at Newport Beach City Hall, Johnson took the oath of office presented by Robert Luman, the interim chief who also built his career in the Long Beach Police Department.
Several Newport City Council members were in attendance, as were plenty of Johnson's former co-workers.
"It's a huge loss for us," said Long Beach police Sgt. Phil Cloughesy, who worked with Johnson in the special enforcement and gang divisions. "He's technically sound and a great leader."
Perhaps a testament to his leadership, many of Johnson's former SWAT team members came wearing their green fatigues to see him sworn in.
Johnson was one of 60 people who applied for the chief's position, which comes with a $204,500 annual salary.
It came down to him and a former deputy chief from the Los Angeles Police Department. City Manager Dave Kiff went with Johnson.
"Very small things began to separate a very small group," Kiff said of the finalists for the job. "It really comes down to a good fit at this level."
Johnson previously was the commander of Long Beach's South Division, which handles downtown, the harbor and much of the tourism in the state's fifth-largest city.
"As with any police department, company or organization, the employees want a genuine, honest and qualified person to lead them and we are confident that Jay Johnson has these values," said Sgt. Mark Hamilton, president of the Newport Beach Police Management Assn. "He comes to us with a great deal of enthusiasm and a proven history of commitment to teamwork."
Johnson said he learned a great deal from Long Beach's current chief on how an outsider — in this case the LAPD — can come in and lead a police department.
"I'll do my best to ensure there's a smooth transition," he said.
Johnson is Newport Beach's first permanent chief since John Klein retired last summer after two years at the helm. Members of the Police Management Assn. took a vote of no confidence in Klein last year.
Johnson is the department's ninth chief in its history, according to the department website.
"I feel honored he put his faith in me," Johnson said of Kiff's decision to hire him. "I promise you, Mr. Kiff, that I won't let you down."
Past Police Chiefs
Past Police Chiefs
Roland Hodgkinson 1928 — 1953
John Upson 1954 — 1961
James Glavas 1961 — 1977
Charles Gross 1977 — 1985
Arb Campbell 1985 — 1993
Bob McDonell 1993 — 2007
John Klein 2007 — 2009
Robert M. Luman 2009 — 2010