TORRANCE — Torrance Police Chief Mark Matsuda announced his retirement on June 14 after 30 years of service to the City of Torrance.
He will officially leave his post in August.
“For 30 years, it has been my honor to protect and serve the citizens of Torrance as a proud member of the Torrance Police Department,” Matsuda said. “During my career, I have always aimed to serve the diverse community of people who live, work, and play in the City of Torrance with integrity and dedication to the highest standards of performance, and to the best of my abilities.”
Matsuda began his career in law enforcement with the Torrance Police Department in May 1987. He was appointed chief of police in April 2014, serving as the department’s 10th police chief and the first Asian American to serve in that capacity.
Torrance City Manager LeRoy Jackson noted, “Chief Matsuda advanced the Police Department in many ways with his integrity, leadership, and expertise in law enforcement. The experience he gained from the many roles he served in the department has allowed him to achieve significant success throughout his career. Chief Matsuda has demonstrated a strong commitment to public service, law enforcement, and command of the department by serving not only the Torrance community, but the greater South Bay region.”
Jackson added, “Chief Matsuda’s dedication to the highest standards of performance and the team he assembled have done great police work over the last three years and have built upon the work of his predecessors.”
Under Matsuda’s command, the department formed a mental health team, assisted social services groups to assist with the homeless population, enhanced community outreach through Coffee with a Cop, Teens and Police; added social media coordinator and mobile application, developed a model Coyote Management Plan, provided safety training for city and Torrance Unified School District staff, adjusted deployment to address residential burglaries in the region, implemented the automated license plate recognition system, and added unmanned aerial systems to investigate and identify criminal activity.
“These accomplishments make me proud to announce my retirement,” Matsuda said. “I wish the members of the Torrance Police Department, the City of Torrance and the citizens of our great community continued success and prosperity.”
Matsuda’s final months in office were clouded by allegations of misconduct. He was suspended until Feb. 13 after an investigation was opened in October due to a personnel complaint. The officers who filed the complaint sent material to The Daily Breeze alleging that Matsuda had not promoted racial and ethnic equality in the department and that he made constant remarks against women, gay people, African Americans and Muslims.
“The city’s investigation was concluded and presented to the city manager for disposition,” Matsuda wrote at the time. “The city’s investigation of this matter demonstrates that the city’s policies, including disciplinary policies, apply to the highest office and personnel in the Torrance Police Department, including myself.”
He added, “I am committed to leading by example and demonstrating that strong relationships with the community start from strong relationships internally.”
Matsuda declined to discuss the allegations, but said the investigation was conducted by an independent third party and included interviews with several witnesses and a review of documents.
Deputy Chief Bernard Anderson headed the department during Matsuda’s absence.
The city manager’s office did not respond to a query from The Rafu Shimpo about whether the allegations were substantiated or not.
According to The Daily Breeze, Torrance police Lt. Hector Bermudez filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city and the police chief earlier this month, accusing Matsuda of preventing him from investigating potential criminal misconduct among his officers. Bermudez said that Matsuda stopped him from looking into officers’ possible unlawful use of computer databases that contain criminal histories, then retaliated against him by issuing a negative performance evaluation and bypassing him for promotion.
According to the lawsuit, the possible misuse of databases was connected to officers’ off-duty work with a private security company for professional athletes.
The city manager’s office had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.
City Councilmember Mike Griffiths told The Daily Breeze that he has had “nothing but good experiences working with Chief Matsuda” and has not talked to him about his reasons for leaving. Regarding the turmoil in the department, Griffiths said, “I’d love to know more about what’s going on.”
Prior to becoming chief, Matsuda worked assignments in Patrol (field assignment, Gang Detail and field training officer) and Vice and Narcotics (Crime Impact Team). He was promoted to sergeant in 1998 and worked in Patrol (field supervisor, community lead officer detail) and Personnel (Personnel Section sergeant). He was promoted to lieutenant in 2003 and worked in Patrol (SWAT), Traffic and Special Events, and Personnel.
He was promoted to captain in 2008 and was assigned to the Services, Patrol, and Administrative bureaus. In 2013, he was promoted to deputy chief of police.
Matsuda was raised in the Torrance area and graduated from Narbonne High School in Harbor City. He obtained his BA and MA degrees from Chapman University in Orange, both in Organizational Leadership.
The Torrance Police Department has over 350 employees and serves a culturally diverse community of 147,000 people, covering 20.5 square miles. Torrance is the eighth-largest city in Los Angeles County with a Police Department budget of over $75 million. It is noted for being one of the safest cities in the country.