ARCADIA, Calif. — A new leader has taken the reins at the Arcadia Police Department.
Chief Roy Nakamura has made history as the department’s first chief of Asian descent, just as hate crimes against Asian Americans are rising across the country.
“I just happen to be a non-white,” said Nakamura with a laugh. “I never live my life based on the color of my skin. I was raised where I was always told let your work speak for you.”
He has put in the work for 29 years, starting at the department as an officer and ascending to sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. Now he’s the department’s top cop at a time when Asian Americans are experiencing a rise in hate crimes. In a city where more than 60% of residents identify as Asian American according to Census data, he knows there is fear.
“We are certain there are some people that may have fear and haven’t expressed it directly to us, but we want them to know that feeling is out there,” Nakamura said. “We understand, and if there is anything we can do to allay those fears, than we will.”
To allay those fears his department released a message to the community assuring that hate crimes will be pursued to the greatest extent possible.
Nakamura is a Japanese American who grew up on the island of Guam. He says he’s heard his share of racist jokes. And directly across from the station he can see the Santa Anita Race Track, which interned thousands of Japanese Americans in the 1940s. He was never interned, but it’s still a reminder of the country’s past racist behavior toward Asian Americans.
“It’s an unfortunate event in our time. It should never happen again,” Nakamura said.
As he and his officers connect with residents he wants them to know that the department will listen. He urges anyone with a story to come forward.
“My message to the city of Arcadia is, if you believe you are a victim of a crime or a hate incident call us,” Nakamura said. “If we don’t know we can’t help.”
No hate crimes have been reported, but he tells his officers communication is key to residents feeling safe enough to share possible hate crimes.
“Having a dialog with the community is so important and if you’ve lost that, than I think you’ve lost the essence of what we’re about,” Nakamura said.
The department defines a hate crime as “any crime motivated in whole or in part by bias, prejudice, or bigotry; however, not all hate is a crime. A hate incident is often involving a person making non-threatening bigoted, biased, or prejudiced comments to another individual based on race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, or other personal characteristics. It also can involve a person displaying a non-threatening, bigoted, biased, or prejudiced message or image in certain contexts."
Residents can report any crime or incident by calling (626) 574-5123.