Laguna Beach police captain tapped for chief of Manhattan Beach police

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Laguna Beach police Capt. Rachel Johnson. Photo courtesy of Manhattan Beach

A Laguna Beach police captain has been recruited by Manhattan Beach as its next police chief, the south bay city announced Wednesday.

Capt. Rachel Johnson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and commander of Laguna Beach’s field services division, will succeed police chief Derrick Abell, who retired in December 2021. Johnson will start her new position on Aug. 8.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve as the Police Chief for the City of Manhattan Beach,” Johnson said in a press release. “I look forward to working together with the Police Department’s sworn and professional staff, city leaders, and the community to continue the Manhattan Beach Police Department’s legacy of excellent service, with a focus on crime prevention, quality of life, and fostering relationships.”

Johnson wasn’t immediately available for further comment Wednesday.

“We are proud of Captain Johnson and are happy that we were able to provide her the experience and opportunity at the City of Laguna Beach Police Department to develop as a leader to become the next Police Chief of Manhattan Beach, and we wish her all the best,” Laguna Beach City Manager Shohreh Dupuis said in a statement.

After starting her tenure with the Laguna Beach Police Department in February 2020, Johnson led both the support and investigative services and field services divisions. She has overseen the City’s COVID-19 response throughout the pandemic, updating the City Council regularly over Zoom about the latest state and county health orders.

Prior to becoming a police officer Johnson served as U.S. Marine from 1997 to 2001. She worked as an air control electronics operator and was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Johnson joined Laguna Beach in 2020 after working for years at the Newport Beach Police Department as a lieutenant and in numerous other roles. She launched her law enforcement career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 2001.

Johnson is a graduate of Sherman Block Leadership Institute, the International Association of Chiefs of Police Women’s Leadership Institute, and the California POST Executive Development Course.

“With her community-oriented and proactive policing approach, I’m confident that Johnson is the right person to lead the Manhattan Beach Police Department and keep our residents safe,” Manhattan Beach City Manager Bruce Moe said in a press release. “Johnson is a highly respected leader who will serve our community well.”

Ahead of the announcement of Johnson’s departure, Laguna Beach police chief Jeff Calvert informed city staffers that he appointed interim Capt. Dave Nichols, a 33-year veteran of the Orange Police Department, to temporarily lead the field services division while permanent candidates are recruited.

Capt. David Dereszynski, commander of the support services and investigative services division, was recruited away from Huntington Beach police in March.

“We’re grateful for our brief time with Captain Johnson, and we wish her all the best in her new position as Chief,” the Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association Board of Directors said in a statement.

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