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New Sac State police chief takes over at 'pivotal moment' for his hometown university

Sacramento State’s new police chief, Chet Madison Jr., steps into his assignment at an important time for the University, amid a nationwide conversation about social and law enforcement issues, while vowing his commitment to fairness, integrity and respect.

“I want my legacy as chief to be that I cared, that I was approachable, and that I was a good person. That’s something I strive to ensure,” said Madison, who comes to the University after 27 years in law enforcement, most recently with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

“Being genuine, open, honest, and candid is important in this day and age, especially with law enforcement,” Madison said. “People want authenticity. My philosophy since I became a police officer at 22 is to treat people fairly, and with dignity and respect. If you do that, no matter the situation, nine times out of 10 it will end OK.”

New Sacramento State Police Chief Chet Madison Jr. shakes hands with University President Robert S. Nelsen during a photo and video shoot on campus. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Madison, whose first day on the job is Wednesday, Sept. 1, succeeds Mark Iwasa, who retired in July after 91/2 years as chief.

“Chief Madison joins Sacramento State at a pivotal moment for our campus community,” University President Robert S. Nelsen said. “We must ensure that we are a caring campus and that every member of our community feels safe, heard, and valued.

“Chief Madison’s proven commitment to trust-building, transparency, and accountability makes him the right person for this job at this time, and I am glad that he decided to join the Hornet Family.”

Madison, 49, was hired after a nationwide search led by a committee of Sac State students, faculty, and staff. They considered the results of a campus survey and town hall meetings to recommend three finalists.

“I am extremely grateful to the campus community for dedicating time to participate in the search for our next chief of police,” said Jonathan Bowman, vice president for Administration and Sac State’s chief financial officer. The police department is in his division.


The right priorities and experience

Bowman said Madison’s experience in law enforcement – dating to 1994 – provides breadth and depth valuable in supporting his leadership role. Critically important is Madison’s understanding and embrace of the 21st Century Policing model established by President Barack Obama and used throughout the CSU, as well as a firm understanding of Title IX, the education law that prohibits sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment.

“He has demonstrated that he will prioritize providing a safe environment for our students to learn and thrive,” Bowman said.

Madison was born in Fresno and moved with his parents and siblings to south Sacramento when he was 4. His father, Chet Madison Sr., served 20 years as an Elk Grove Unified School District trustee and had a long career with Consolidated Freightways, retiring as terminal manager after 33 years. His mother, Sarah, was an elementary school secretary.

Chet Jr.’s sister, Katrina, is married to Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, who recently announced his retirement from that position at the end of 2021.

Madison graduated from Valley High School, where he played football and basketball. As a sophomore at Valley, he met his future wife, Windy Wynne, then a junior.

“I didn’t have a car, and she did, and she got in trouble from her dad for driving me home from school,” Madison said. “He felt that I should be driving her around. She had to explain, ‘Dad, he doesn’t have a license.’”

Windy is an IT specialist with the state of California. The couple have two children, Elise, a student at CSU Northridge, and Trey, who attends Pleasant Grove High School.

After Madison earned a certification from the Butte County Law Enforcement Academy in 1993, he became a Fresno Police officer. Two years later, he returned to Sacramento and joined the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, where he advanced to the ranks of deputy, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain.

In 2017 he was promoted to chief deputy, assuming responsibilities that included field operations and investigations, support services, and contract and regional services.

Why Madison chose Sac State

Madison’s reason for seeking the Sacramento State position was relatively simple.

“I thought, ‘Why not?’” he said. “It’s the same thing I said to myself when I entered this profession. I’ve always been willing to take risks and try something different.

“This opportunity came up and was hitting all the benchmarks that I was potentially looking for, and the biggest was that it’s in my hometown.”

Challenges of the job, he said, include navigating feelings engendered toward law enforcement by incidents such as the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento Police.

“The perception of law enforcement is something we can’t ignore,” Madison said. “I know it’s out there, and how do we deal with it? I have to be genuine and candid. Some of the conversations may be uncomfortable on both sides, but as someone who has been in this profession for 27 years, I do feel comfortable providing unique perceptions from both sides.”

Madison inherits a police department with nearly 40 employees, including two lieutenants, five sergeants, 14 officers, a detective, and as many as 70 Community Service Officers, who are uniformed student interns anticipating careers in law enforcement.

He’s also looking forward to working with Law Enforcement Candidate Scholars, the University’s groundbreaking “scholars to officers” program in partnership with the Sacramento Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.

“That’s a program I’m so excited to hear more about,” Madison said. “I would love to participate in it and give some perspectives and experiences that I went through as a young 22-year-old recruit. To see that program blossom is exciting.”

Former Chief Iwasa was unambiguous in his support for Madison as his successor: “I think Chet will make a great chief,” he said.

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About Dixie Reid

Dixie Reid has been a writer for Sac State since 2012 after decades as a newspaper reporter. A Texas native with the accent to prove it, Dixie is crazy about “dear friends, big dogs, good books, great food, day trips, baking cookies, California sunshine (and fog), and kind people.”

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