Long Beach Police Commander Chad Ellis is coming home in a sense as he takes command of the East Division — he and his family live in Long Beach.
He also is continuing a tradition of LBPD leadership — his father, Bill Ellis, was Long Beach Police chief from 1992 to his retirement in 1996.
Chad Ellis started his law enforcement career in 1995 as a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy; chiefs cannot hire relatives to the LBPD. But once Bill Ellis retired, Chad applied for and received a lateral transfer.
"I always wanted to work for Long Beach," Chad Ellis said. "Because dad was popular and respected, it was an easy transition for me. I never shied away from my name, but I wanted to make my own way, build my own career."
Now with almost 24 years under his belt at the LBPD, it's safe to say Commander Ellis has made his own career. Before his transfer last week to the East Division, he has worked in almost every area of the department — Patrol, Field Training Officer, Gang Investigations, Special Weapons and Tactics Team (S.W.A.T), Port Police, Internal Affairs and Drug Investigations.
Through it all, Ellis said he has maintained a close relationship with his father, who still lives in Long Beach part-time. The former chief is willing to offer advice, but his greatest gift to his son has been his example, Chad Ellis said.
"He's still very involved, and he's always been a great resource," Ellis said of his father. "He is one of the best natural leaders I've ever seen. His moral compass is so strong. He has always emphasized doing the right thing to me, and done the right thing himself. I try to follow that."
While Chief Ellis retired from the LBPD in 1996, he says he didn't "retire retire." He has held a number of jobs since, including chief of security at the Port of Long Beach. But now he is "permanently retired," he said.
The chief said he couldn't be more proud of his son and the promotion to commander, and watching his progression as a leader on the department and in the community has been a pleasure.
Chad also has learned the lesson of how to persevere in a time when police officers are often under attack, verbally and occasionally physically, Ellis said.
"He has been able to recognize that a lot of the community appreciate what law enforcement does, and hold the police in high regard," he said. "And he knows how to remind the younger officers of that… There are issues the police departments need to deal with, and I know Chad is aware of that and doing that."
Commander Ellis said he's looking forward to working in the East Division, where he grew up. He attended Long Beach schools, was a junior lifeguard and attended Long Beach City College before getting a degree in English in San Diego.
"And I'm coming in on the heels of a string of good commanders," Ellis said of his predecessors, including Commander Pat O'Dowd. "I want to continue to emphasize communication, as they did. I want to keep the lines of communication open with the community and with the officers in this stressful time."
Commander Ellis echoed his father's feeling that the majority of Long Beach residents continue to strongly support the police. He added that it would make a difference if more people expressed that to the officers on the street.
"We know we don't typically interact with people on their best day — quite the opposite," Ellis said. "But if the community would just acknowledge the officers when they see them on the street — a wave, a thank you maybe — it would go a long way."
Bill Ellis said there is a police heritage in the family — his brother was an officer in the San Francisco Police Department. But Chad said there's no indication his nearly grown children have any desire to emulate the "Blue Bloods" of television fame. And that's just fine with him, he said.