phan s. ngo appointed deputy chief of san jose police

Last week, the San Jose Police Department announced that it has appointed Capt. Phan S. Ngo as Deputy Chief. Considering the strained relationship the department has suffered with the Vietnamese American community in recent years, this news is a pretty big deal: San Jose police chief chooses Vietnamese-American as new deputy chief.

It's historic. Ngo, who was airlifted as a child out of Saigon during the last days of the Vietnam War, is not only the first Vietnamese American to serve as a deputy chief in San Jose, but he is believed to be the highest-ranking Vietnamese-American officer on any major U.S. police department.

His appointment comes at a time of great distrust for police within the Vietnamese American community, largely due to two recent cases -- the police shooting of a mentally-ill Daniel Pham in the backyard of his home, and the violent, videotaped arrest of San Jose State University student Phuong Ho.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there were about 90,000 Vietnamese living in San Jose in 2008 -- more than any American city. According to department officials, there are about 40 Vietnamese-American officers in the San Jose Police Department, making up 2.8 percent of the force.

Ngo, who first joined the force as an officer in 1989, is now the only nonwhite member of Davis' top command staff. Hopefully, this is a first step -- a small step -- in the right direction.

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