By David Allen
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.
As the new leader of the Chino Police Department gave me a tour of the headquarters, colleagues we encountered employed a respectful form of address never before used with a police chief in this community: ma’am.
Karen Comstock was sworn in Dec. 11 and appears to be only the second female police chief in San Bernardino County history.
Comstock’s rise is unusual in one respect. Only 25 of 330 police chiefs in California are women. Yet she’s a good fit in Chino, where she joined the Police Department as a teen volunteer nearly three decades ago and spent the past five years as a captain.
“She worked her way up the ladder, every rank in the department. I don’t think we’ve ever had a chief who did that, starting with Explorer Scout and cadet,” the previous chief, Miles Pruitt, told me days before his retirement.
While Pruitt said Comstock’s shattering of the glass ceiling is “great,” he was quick to say she is highly respected and that her promotion is the logical next step.
As Pruitt told the City Council on Dec. 2, “if you like what’s going on at the department, you can credit Karen for a lot of the innovation and creative ideas.”
Chino deployed on-body cameras for its officers in April, making the department among the first locally to do so. At 45, Comstock is among a younger generation of police administrators comfortable with technology.
She’s homegrown too, although she spent her early years in El Monte. Her family moved to Chino for an affordable home when she was in fourth grade.
“All my family members were like, ‘Where’s Chino?’ I thought we moved to the middle of nowhere,” she recalled with a smile.
Her first day of school was on Doris Dickson Elementary’s opening day. (On her walk home, she got lost.) She went on to attend Ramona Junior High and Don Lugo High, where she graduated in 1987. A handmade banner outside her office reads: “Your Don Lugo family is proud of you, Chief Comstock.”