Campus & community, Campus news, Events at Berkeley

It’s official: UC Berkeley’s new police chief is sworn in

By Gretchen Kell

UC Berkeley's new police chief smiles in front of flag in Sproul Hall as her swearing-in ceremony begins.

As her swearing-in ceremony begins, Yogananda Pittman smiles in a room packed with some of the UCPD officers she will lead as UC Berkeley’s new police chief. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Yogananda Pittman took the oath of office today to become UC Berkeley’s new police chief, telling a festive, packed room in Sproul Hall — and East Coast family, friends and former co-workers on Zoom — that she is “ecstatic” to be starting her new role on campus. The former interim chief of the U.S. Capitol Police , who will work and reside nearly 3,000 miles from her previous post, is set to direct a police force of about 140 officers, community safety officers and staff.

“The events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 — I certainly don’t want to talk about that today,” she said at the event to her well-wishers, “… but it’s part of my journey and something I will build on.” She added that she wants to now build upon the campus’s “phenomenal history.”

“I also want to say to all my family and friends joining me via Zoom,” she said, “… that I know I stand on the shoulders of so many of you from the eastern shore of Maryland and so many of my colleagues at the U.S. Capitol Police.” Pittman grew up in Cambridge, Maryland, a Chesapeake Bay community not far from Washington, D.C.

Pittman joined the U.S. Capitol Police just hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. She became interim chief on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the insurrection that left two officers dead, more than 100 injured and some $3 million in damage to the building. Steven Sund had resigned as chief; Pittman became the first woman and the first Black person to lead the force.

Marc Fisher, UC Berkeley vice chancellor for administration, administered the oath and wished Pittman “all the best and happiness in your new role.” Pittman’s husband, Leroy McKinney, dressed in a dark blue suit and tie in a room filled with officers in blue, pinned on her UCPD chief’s badge. He said he’d practiced for that moment, but had pinned such symbols of authority on her before, as it’s a law enforcement tradition for family or significant others to do so.

Pittman also thanked the couple’s sons — Satchel, who will be 23 tomorrow, and Seth, 17 —saying she realizes that it is “a tremendous sacrifice for their mom to be 3,000 miles away, and I can’t thank you enough, from the bottom of my heart.”

UCPD Chief Pittman stands in uniform at her swearing-in ceremony

Pittman said she was “truly humbled and honored” to have arrived at Berkeley as the new police chief. The veteran police leader became interim chief of the U.S. Capitol Police just two days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Among those on Zoom who expressed their pride in Pittman after she took the oath was U.S. Capitol Deputy Police Chief Sean Gallagher.

“You are getting a fantastic chief and an even more fantastic person,” he told the Berkeley community via Zoom. He then said to Pittman, “The entire department is so proud of you, and I know you will do great things out there.”

Pittman will be leading a multi-year campus security reform program to improve emergency management, mental health crisis response and security technology and to strengthen relations with diverse communities. She also will tackle a debate involving law enforcement — one that exists nationwide — over the need for protection from crime, yet a greater commitment to social services.

A former colleague of Pittman’s from the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia who attended the event on Zoom told the campus community that it had made a wise choice in selecting the new chief.

“When you talk about collaboration and collaborative efforts with other agencies, you have the right one,” she said. “She was remarkable in her role as interim chief (of the U.S. Capitol Police) and navigated the trenches. You have gained someone who knows how to build bridges and create relations beyond the bridges of the campus.”

A larger ceremonial swearing-in for Pittman will be held later this semester that will include the chancellor and more of the campus community, as well as local city leaders and law enforcement from neighboring municipalities.