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California City Welcomes First Hispanic Police Chief Two Years After Ethnic Riots

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24: A scrimmage line of police officers protect the streets surrounding Anaheim City Hall during a demonstration to show outrage for the fatal shooting of Manuel Angel Diaz, 25, at Anaheim City Hall on July 24, 2012 in Anaheim, California. Diaz was fatally shot on July 21 by an Anaheim police officer and has sparked days of protests by the angered community. (Photo by Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images)

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24: A scrimmage line of police officers protect the streets surrounding Anaheim City Hall during a demonstration to show outrage for the fatal shooting of Manuel Angel Diaz, 25, at Anaheim City Hall on July 24, 2012 in Anaheim, California. Diaz was fatally shot on July 21 by an Anaheim police officer and has sparked days of protests by the angered community. (Photo by Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

More than a year and half after riots rocked Anaheim, Calif., following the fatal police shootings of half a dozen Hispanic men, residents of the city 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles have their first Latino police chief.

Raul Quezada was sworn in earlier this week as the first Latino police chief in the agency's 144-year history and his appointment has been hailed locally as a way to strengthen ties between police officers and residents of Anaheim.

“I am honored and humbled at the challenge and responsibility this position holds, and I am aware there is work to be done to ensure our department is delivering the highest level of service to our residents, business owners, employees and visitors,” Quezada said in December when the Anaheim City Council approved his appointment. “As your police chief I will do everything within my ability to keep the Anaheim Police Department in its rightful position as the finest police department in California.”

Quezada takes the helm of a department that has been mired in a pubic relations nightmare ever since the 2012 riots.

Tensions began simmering in the city in early 2012 after there were several shootings involving police officers, but reached a boiling point when two unarmed Latino men were fatally shot by police in one weekend, sparking days of protests.

Home to both Disneyland and the Anaheim Ducks NHL team, the city is touted by officials as an entertainment and resort mecca, but there is also a gritty, low-income section.

Gangs have cropped up in Anaheim's tough neighborhoods recently, and police began carrying out a major crackdown to curb violence. The stepped-up enforcement, many Latinos said, made them feel as if they were being targeted – and that caused friction between police and some members of the community.

Quezada has held multiple positions with the Anaheim Police Department. Besides working patrol and as a detective, he has held command positions in Internal Affairs and the Investigations Division. Since May of last year, Quezada has been interim Chief of Police following the retirement of former chief John Welter.

“Anaheim residents can be confident knowing their Police Department is led by an outstanding individual who truly has a passion for this city,” said City Manager Marcie Edwards in a press release. “Chief Quezada has demonstrated his leadership these past several months, and together with an outstanding department of officers and civilian employees, the Anaheim Police Department will continue to embrace the community and serve its residents, businesses and guests in the highest manner possible.”

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