The City of Sacramento has selected Kathy Lester to become its next Chief of Police.
Lester, a 27-year veteran of the Sacramento Police Department, currently serves as its Deputy Chief of Operations. She will assume her new role following Chief Daniel Hahn’s retirement at the end of the year, becoming Sacramento’s 46th Chief of Police and the first woman to hold the position.
“I am thrilled that Kathy has accepted this opportunity to continue to serve her community in this new capacity,” said City Manager Howard Chan, who made the appointment. “During her time with the Sacramento Police Department, she has proven herself to be a dynamic leader with an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, accountability and innovation. There is no one better to serve in this role and to continue the ongoing efforts of the department and its outstanding employees.”
“Kathy Lester is not just a home-grown talent and a historic appointment; she is 100 percent the right person to lead this department at this time, displaying an unparalleled breadth of experience as well as the values critical to our communities,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “I know she will be terrific in this position and continue the high standards set by Chief Hahn.”
Lester joined the Sacramento Police Department in 1994 as a dispatcher, became a community service officer in 1995 and a sworn officer in 1996. She has worked in Patrol, Traffic, Recruiting, Internal Affairs, Criminal Intelligence, and served as an Executive Lieutenant in the North Patrol Command. She has led the Contracts Services Division, Personnel and Fiscal Division, the Downtown Patrol Command, the Division of Outreach and Engagement and Police Services for the Sacramento City Unified School District. She also has overseen the Office of Specialized Services.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State University in government and international relations and a master’s degree from Mississippi State University in geosciences. Prior to joining the Sacramento Police Department, Lester, whose family has lived in Sacramento for multiple generations, served in the Army. She attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., where she became fluent in Russian, later serving as a military interpreter, combat medic and range master.
“I am humbled by this appointment and by the opportunity to serve our residents in this role,” Lester said. “I joined the Sacramento Police Department because of its reputation for community-based policing, and that spirit of community and collaboration has long been instilled in me. I look forward to continuing the ongoing work by the Sacramento Police Department to make our city a place where everyone feels safe, secure and protected.”
In her new capacity, Lester will lead a department of more than 1,100 sworn and civilian staff. Her appointment follows a national recruitment process as well as a competitive and rigorous interview process. The City also received approximately 1,700 responses to a community survey regarding qualities for the next police chief, which were used to help inform the hiring process.
“Our national recruitment for this position yielded several viable candidates, but by the end of the process, it was clear that Kathy was the hands-down best choice,” Chan said. “When it came to possessing the top qualities expressed in the community survey, she hit all the marks. She also has incomparable operational experience and incredibly strong relationships with both her fellow officers and the communities she serves.”
Among her many notable accomplishments with the Sacramento Police Department over the years, Lester:
- Established Sac PD’s Pipeline Hiring Program, which has helped to increase diversity within the department.
- Established a full-time mental health team within the department, led by a licensed social worker.
- Designed, secured grant funding and developed youth diversion programs as alternatives to detention for juveniles.
- Implemented gender-awareness training for all officers, based on the POST-approved curriculum originally developed by San Francisco County.
- Implemented disproportionate-minority-contact and implicit bias training, resulting in changes to the POST curriculum and Sacramento becoming the first municipal agency in the state to adopt this training.
- Created the Outreach and Engagement Division, expanded community outreach efforts to multiple ethnic groups and expanded partnerships with community-based organizations.
- Partnered with a team of scientists from around the country on the Safe and Connected Communities grant, which looks to make vulnerable populations more resilient to natural disasters.