“It caused me to think how I really wanted to treat people differently,” he said. “And it had an influence, that’s for sure.”
Chief Magnus started his law enforcement career in 1979 as a dispatcher in the Lansing Police Department, rose through the ranks and in 1999 became the police chief in Fargo, N.D., where he helped establish a liaison program for refugees.
Later, as the police chief in Richmond, he helped drive down violent crime. In 2014, one of his last years with the department, the city recorded just 11 homicides, the lowest number in more than four decades. That year, Chief Magnus was photographed holding the Black Lives Matter sign and, when criticized by the local police union, said he would do it again.
But in Richmond, Chief Magnus also faced a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by seven Black sergeants, lieutenants and captains, although in 2012 a jury rejected all the claims. In 2015, a former Richmond police officer settled a wrongful termination lawsuit with the department after he said he was fired for complaining that Chief Magnus sexually harassed him and made racial slurs. Chief Magnus called the accusations “entirely bogus.”
“There were still people at that time who felt I’m an easier target because I’m a gay man,” he said. “That’s not the first time in my career I’ve experienced that.”
In Tucson last year, Chief Magnus again drew fire when the department took two months to release the body-camera video of the death of a 27-year-old Latino man, Carlos Ingram Lopez, who pleaded repeatedly for water as he was being restrained by police officers.
Chief Magnus attributed the delay to a bureaucratic breakdown, saying he did not immediately watch the video. But he said he wished he had done more to see it himself. “We should have asked to see the video but that didn’t happen, and when we did ultimately see it obviously we were very concerned about it,” he said. Chief Magnus offered his resignation during a news conference as the video was made public, but the mayor kept him on the force and praised his work in a statement on Monday.