Seventy-eight years ago, the job of the police chief in Arcadia, Calif., would have included making sure no Japanese Americans had escaped from the converted racetrack where they were being held in converted horse stalls. Now, the city in Los Angeles County is about to get its first chief of police of Japanese descent. Roy Nakamura, the Arcadia Police Department's current operations captain, will become the 30th chief in the department's history when current Chief Robert Guthrie retires in January, Arcadia Weekly reports. The 56-year-old will be the first Asian American police chief in the city, which is 61% Asian American.
"It’s progress," Nakamura tells the Los Angeles Times. "Obviously, I wasn't here during those times, and not everything in history has been positive, but we’re also here to learn from our mistakes, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in the city of Arcadia." Nakamura has been with the force for 28 years. The Arcadia detention center at the Santa Anita racetrack held more than 18,000 Japanese Americans, including 5-year-old George Takei, from March 1942 until the end of October of that year, when they were sent to more permanent detention camps. (This year, California finally agreed to apologize for its role in the forced removal of more than 110,000 people from their homes.)