US President Joe Biden has nominated Chris Magnus, openly gay and married Police Chief, as commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.  Magnus had won national recognition in 2014, when he held a Black Lives Matter sign at a protest.

Magnus, married his husband Terrance Cheung in 2014, and has a long list of achievements under his belt. including successful stints as Police Chief in North Dakota, California and Arizona. One of the most impressive achievements was when  he was Chief of Police of Richmond, California in 2014, the city recorded the lowest number of homicides in decades, at just 11. 

“I am, of course, very honored to be nominated by the President to lead Customs and Border Protection. I look forward to speaking with senators and hearing their thoughts and concerns,” Magnus said in a statement issued on Monday.

 A police uniform holding a BLM sign

Magnus gained notoriety in America in 2014 for holding a Black Lives Matter sign at a rally in uniform, a move of solidarity which his superiors were not very happy about. In June 2020 he offered to resign after a Latinx man died in police custody, a resignation which was not accepted by the mayor. The three officers involved in the killing resigned after Magnus had made it known he intended to terminate their employment.  

His first ever attendance at a protest resulted in him being arrested as a participant and the resulting experience made him realise that he was a benefactor of white privilege, saying during a New York Times panel in December 2020: “Ultimately I was driven home, I guess perhaps you could call that a function of white privilege at the time.” It left him, he said, “with a very bad taste.”

“It caused me to think how I really wanted to treat people differently,” he said. “And it had an influence, that’s for sure.”

Not Only The first Gay Police Chief

Chris Magnus and partner Terrence Cheung.

If confirmed, Magnus will not only be the first openly gay commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, but he’ll be responsible for the country’s largest law enforcement agency which keeps over 60,000 sets of eyes watching over 11,000 kilometres of America’s northern and southern borders, 95,000 miles of shoreline and more than 320 ports of entry.

“I know much is made of how Border Patrol might feel about my nomination, and I want to say right off that I do recognize that a Border Patrol or customs agent is doing a very difficult job,” he said. “I’m going to be making it a priority to get to know the people doing that job, to learn from them and to try and help them.”

And Magnus has a proven track record when it comes to enacting systematic and effective change in all the police departments he has led, a fact recognised by a statement released by the While House regarding the nomination of Magnus, 

“During his time in Richmond, Magnus played a key role in rebuilding community trust in law enforcement and dramatically reducing the number of shootings and homicides,” the White House said in a press release. “In Tucson, Magnus implemented de-escalation training, sentinel event review processes, and programs to promote officer health and wellness.”

Magnus joins the growing list of members of the LGBTQI community that have been nominated and / or confirmed to lofty positions of power in the Biden / Harris administration, including Pete Buttigieg who was confirmed on the 2nd February as Secretary of Transportation and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary for health, confirmed in March as the first Transgender person ever to hold an office that requires Senate confirmation.

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