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Pasadena police chief resigns, heads to Washington D.C.

October 5, 2009 |  2:45 pm

Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian, who has overseen the city's police department for 13 years, is retiring and will take a job with the U.S. Department of Justice.

He will head the justice department's Community Oriented Policing Services program, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today in Denver, where national police leaders are meeting.

"He has served the people of Pasadena with tremendous skill since 1996," Holder said. "One of Bernie’s most important new missions will be to help lead a drive to innovate in the area of law enforcement operations. We can no longer afford to view technology and data-driven approaches with suspicion, or to stick with established procedures simply because 'that’s how it’s always been done.' "

The chief, who also has served as interim city manager in Pasadena, is considered one of California's top law enforcement leaders, and in March became the president of the California Police Chief's Assn. He served on the National Board of Directors for the Police Executive Research Forum from 2002 to 2006.

He also is a senior adviser for the Police Assessment Resource Center in Los Angeles and was on the panel that examined LAPD's SWAT operation in the wake of a hostage situation that led to a child's death.

Melekian, a former Santa Monica commander, took the helm in the mid-1990s in the wake of a triple homicide on Halloween that made the city rethink its approach to gang crime, which had plagued it for decades. During Melekian's reign, the number of homicides recorded each year decreased significantly.

Melekian also became an outspoken advocate for police working with mental health professionals. Melekian, an active Coast Guard Reserve, served during Operation Desert Storm and was called to serve in 2003 for eight months in the Pacific.

-- Richard Winton

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