The Huntington Beach City Council named Julian Harvey interim police chief, voting 5-2 in closed session Thursday, Nov. 4 after a two-hour public meeting.
Mayor Lyn Semeta and Councilman Erik Peterson cast the “no” votes.
Harvey, 53, retired from the Anaheim Police Department one year ago. The 28-year law enforcement veteran last served as Anaheim’s deputy chief of police, overseeing 400 officers.
Huntington Beach was forced into an emergency search for a temporary chief last month when both the police chief and just-appointed interim police chief retired.
Facing health issues, Robert Handy stepped down after serving seven years as police chief. Ten days later, acting chief Kelly Rodriguez suddenly opted to leave, as well.
Harvey will inherit a department roiled by infighting – in particular, between its two unions, the Police Management Association and the Police Officers Association.
“There is an unhealthy level of divisiveness right now in the department, and I have no desire to be thrust into the middle of the political fights that are currently occurring,” Rodriguez said in an Oct. 22 statement.
Harvey served as Anaheim’s interim police chief from October of 2017 to August of 2018 when that department was undergoing its own turmoil. Citing “intolerable” working conditions and false claims against him, embattled police chief Raul Quezada resigned as part of a $750,000 settlement.
Semeta said in an email that Harvey “certainly possesses the professional experience and high qualifications to lead the department.”
“My (no) vote was simply a reflection of my belief that another candidate was the best choice to bring the most expedient stability and repair of internal relations during this interim period,” Semeta said.
As homelessness liaison, Harvey led Anaheim in dealing with the city’s burgeoning crisis.
That makes him a good fit at a time Huntington Beach is debuting its own shelter, said Mayor Pro Tem Kim Carr. Located off Beach Boulevard and Cameron Lane, the new “navigation center” can house up to 300 people in a temporary structure.
“Julian opened four homeless shelters in Anaheim,” Carr said. “He knows how to address the homeless issue in a way that is both compassionate to our most needy and respectful to our businesses and residents.”
Harvey, who lives in Laguna Beach, has been making waves ever since he was a star athlete at Laguna Hills High. A four-year varsity letterman in both water polo and swimming, Harvey garnered a full scholarship from UC Irvine. In 1989, he helped the Anteaters water polo team win the NCAA title.
Huntington Beach expects to hire a new police chief within about six months, Carr said, adding, “We were really lucky to get a person of Julian’s caliber to shepherd us through this transition.”