City officials announced Thursday, April 27, that Chief Marilyn Diaz will be retiring from her post effective at the end of 2011. Diaz’s retirement will bring an end to a 37-year career in law enforcement, including 32 years at the Pasadena Police Department, where she worked her way to the rank of commander before taking the position of Police Chief in Sierra Madre in 2006.
Diaz's selection for the Sierra Madre Police Chief position was particularly notable due to her sex, a point made clear by the media coverage at the time.
In a 2006 Los Angeles Times article titled “Policewoman Breaks the Brass Ceiling,” Times staff writer Cynthia H. Cho told the story of Diaz's becoming the first woman to head a city police department in Los Angeles County.
From the article:
“In the beginning, her male colleagues doubted her abilities, [Diaz] said. And they weren't alone. Sometimes when she responded to house calls, the men who answered the doors would question her, too.
"'Some would say that I belonged at home, having babies,' she said."
Diaz’s time running the SMPD has not been without its share of controversy. A number of lawsuits were filed by the Sierra Madre Police Officer’s Association against Diaz’s department, alleging illegal searches of officers’ lockers as well as other alleged violations of civil rights relating to employment. On July 14, 2009, Sgt. John Ellins was dismissed from the department in a closed session of the city council, according to a report in the Sierra Madre Weekly.
Bill Coburn, executive director of the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce and long-time publisher of the sierramadrenews.net website, sat down with Diaz in 2009 to discuss the lawsuits, dismissals and other negative publicity the department was receiving at the time.
In that Q&A interview, which is still available to read on Coburn’s site, Diaz defended her relationship with the officers in the department, saying, “I think it’s important for the public to know that the SMPOA projects concerns that aren’t universally supported by all department employees, and a number of employees support the direction I’m taking the department, even though their views have not been publicized by the POA or their law firm.”
But Diaz, who had risen to a position in the Pasadena PD where she held command over 160 officers, proved over the years that she was capable of not only running the Sierra Madre department, but growing and improving it as well, according to city officials.
The statement issued by the city on Thursday, April 27, touted the many accomplishments Diaz made during her tenure including a focus on “enhancing staff professionalism through extensive training in ethics, use of force, civil liability and safe field tactics,” as well as leading an effort to renovate the evidence and property rooms at the department headquarters.
Diaz was also “proactive” in the use of part-time sworn officers, such as the , formerly of the Pomona Police Dept., as well as non-sworn staff “to provide better patrol coverage throughout the City and aid in follow-up investigations,” according to the city’s statement.
All controversy aside, Chief Diaz has clearly become a mainstay in the Sierra Madre community during her time as Chief. In a statement, City Manager Elaine Aguilar said she would miss Diaz’s presence around town more than anything.
“Mostly, I and the Sierra Madre community will miss seeing her walking into one of our local businesses, or stopping to talk to someone on the street, always providing the perfect example of community policing,” Aguiar said. “Everyone knows Marilyn Diaz as Sierra Madre’s Police Chief. … I don’t think that’s going to change with her retirement!”