Daniel Hahn, Sacramento’s first Black police chief, admits his mom was right
October 19, 2023
Daniel P. Hahn ’95 (Marketing) was at a crossroads in his career, frustrated with the politics of being captain in a cash-strapped department and questioning the lessons his mother had taught him.
“My whole life, my mom taught me you’re always where you’re supposed to be, and hard work will get you where you want to go,” he said. “But I was working really hard, and I didn’t feel like I was where I was supposed to be.
“For the first time in my life, I thought my mom was wrong.”
Then the phone rang with a job offer to be Roseville’s chief of police.
By the end of the call, he had learned another important lesson: Mom is always right.
Hahn, who spent 34 years in law enforcement and served as the first Black chief of police for both the cities of Roseville and Sacramento before retiring in 2021, has received a 2023 Distinguished Service Award from the Sacramento State Alumni Association. He and other Distinguished Alumni Award honorees will be recognized at an awards dinner on Oct. 19.
“This means a lot to me,” said Hahn, who as a child attended summer camps at the University. “Sac State is one of the centers of our community. … It has come a long way. It’s a very diverse campus with a Black president, now.
“It just reinforces the idea that with the right leadership and the right heart and right morals and character, your past does not define the rest of your future as a person or as an organization.”
Hahn served as police chief in Roseville for more than six years beginning in 2011. When he returned to his hometown to be Sacramento’s 45th chief of police in 2017, he bucked tradition by choosing Sac State over City Hall for his swearing-in ceremony.
His wife, Katrina, and their two daughters were by his side.
So was Mary Hahn, the woman who adopted him as an infant and raised him in Oak Park.
“She was the Mother Theresa of Oak Park,” Hahn said. “She was engaged and very active in the community. I got dragged to every community event, every church event, and I hated it as a kid. I just wanted to play in the street.
“But that stuff sinks in.”
Hahn discovered a love for community policing while earning his business degree from Sac State and working as a neighborhood police officer in Del Paso Heights. He also taught at the Grant High School Criminal Justice Magnet Academy.
“About eight years into my career, I decided to be a police officer. Up until that point, my plan was always to leave and start a business or teach,” he said.
“All of us need someone who sees something in us that we don’t see in ourselves. My mom was the ultimate in that. She thought I could do anything, and she made me think I could do anything." -- Daniel Hahn
Hahn teaches Criminal Justice courses at Sac State. He also continues to serve on the Turning Point Community Programs Board of Directors.
His many awards include the inaugural Heart Award from Impact Sac, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wiley W. Manuel Bar Association, and the Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.
“All of us need someone who sees something in us that we don’t see in ourselves,” Hahn said. “My mom was the ultimate in that. She thought I could do anything, and she made me think I could do anything.”
More Distinguished Alumni Awards
Looking for a Faculty Expert?
Contact University Communications