Chico Police Chief Matt Madden: In His Own Words

At the helm for a little over six months, Chico Police Chief Matt Madden talks with Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough about his leadership.

Posted: Feb 16, 2021 8:45 AM
Updated: Feb 16, 2021 9:41 AM

CHICO, Calif. – It has been a little over six months since Chief Matt Madden took the helm of the Chico Police Department. Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough recently sat down with Chief Madden to learn more about who he is, his vision for the department and his assessment of the first several months as chief.

Chief Madden says he comes from a family focused on public service, but in firefighting. He chose a different path.

“I always had a passion for law enforcement; I wanted to help and wanted to do something that was bigger than myself,” explained Chief Madden. “I wanted to be part of a team that takes care of my community.”

After 28 years in law enforcement, rising through the ranks holding positions in patrol, investigations, S.W.A.T. and training, he now wears the Chief’s hat. Is the position what he expected?

“No, not really. I spent three years as second in command. I had a pretty good idea of the level of responsibility but you really don’t understand until you’re behind the desk of what it takes.”

Chief Madden took the helm in the midst of a deadly pandemic and growing angst in the local community over the homeless population in the city. Despite some community pushback to recent action to clear homeless encampments from local parks, Chief Madden says he is carrying out clear directive from city management.

“It was made very clear to me by a majority of citizens in this community and city management that they want their parks back,” said Chief Madden. “Bidwell Park is the jewel of the city. It is what makes our community special and it has been made clear to me that all people want to use that park and feel safe.”

Social conflicts and many directly involving law enforcement and policing practices also came to the forefront in 2020. The police killing of George Floyd sparked nationwide and global protests as well as demonstrations locally. Chief Madden says the poor choices and actions of some police officers can impact those dedicated to service.

“I understood the anger, but it was still a difficult time to take over. We do this job voluntarily; we care. That’s why we do this job. I just want people to know that and to know the incredible men and women that are there to protect and serve this community.”

Yarbough asked Chief Madden about deadly officer-involved shooting incidents in Chico over the past several years. He says such incidents have strong impacts on not only the community but officers as well.

“It’s always tragic to be involved with something like that. You always ask yourself is there something else you could do to avoid that? With technology and new techniques, we learn from our past and we change and evolve. I just went through an update on ‘Use of Force’ policy that came out on January 1, 2021. It’s about making sure your officers are trained and have stills to go out and be successful.”

Chief Madden adds, “It’s a tough job and sometimes people forget that cops are human beings. We can train all we want but at the end of the day we’re humans and not robots.”

The community also moved through a tense national election season and changes to local political leadership.

“It was a difficult time to take over,” admits Chief Madden. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that we really relied on relationships established in the community and so you didn’t see the kind of violence and those types of things you saw in other cities, because of those relationships.”

Chief Madden outlined one new department effort now in the works, aimed at building stronger community bonds. A new Liaison Program will pair police command staff directly with specific and sometimes vulnerable communities to talk, learn, listen and ideally build more trust. Some of those communities include LGBTQ, African-American, Jewish, Hispanic, Native American, and even the college campus community.

“We will be assigning command level officers to a community and they’re going to meet with folks in that community and establish personal relationships and personal responsibility. That’s where we see change and transparency from your police department,” explains Chief Madden. “For anybody in this community, I want them to feel safe and want them to be protected. What I want to do with this liaison program will get conversations started, show people what we do and give them a more vested interest in wanting to serve their community.”

Chico’s population is growing and demographics are changing. While the predominant population group remains Anglo, Yarbough asked Chief Madden if the department is committed to actively building a more racially diverse team.

“There’s a balance in trying to diversify and making sure we are well represented while maintaining high standards in hiring and backgrounds,” said Chief Madden.

“A diverse staff is always good; it gives you a different perspective and represents the community; which your police department should do," he explained. "We’ve taken active steps in our recruiting.”

Chief Madden said the department will work closely with Chico State University’s Criminal Justice Program to attract a more diverse pool of potential candidates.

Where does Chief Madden hope to take the department? He says he wants to continue focusing on infrastructure upgrades, beefing-up staffing, increasing communication and outreach efforts in the community and tackling increasing crime.

Out of uniform, Chief Madden is a husband and father and devotes time to community programs for children. He grew up in Chico and said he has fond memories of taking dips at the Sycamore pool and other local creeks. He shared a childhood story of his own first encounter with police.

“I was about three or four years old and snuck out of the house to follow my brother all the way to Hooker Oak Elementary, but we lived at 7th and Oleander; it was quite a ways,” Chief Madden said through a smile.

“Ultimately I met an officer because someone at the school called and said ‘there’s a kid out there.’ The officer shows up and I also have a Big Wheel with me. He starts pointing out homes, asking if that’s my house. I said yes, but they were all wrong. Finally, he finds my house and my mom is in shock. But the funny part is that my mom was like, ‘that’s not his Big Wheel!”

After 28 years serving in law enforcement and now leading the department, Chief Madden says he is honored to hold the position of Chief.

“From day one until now, I love the job. I’m excited every day to come to work. Despite all the things going on it is still a noble profession and it is an honor to be associated with it.”

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