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Monday, January 24, 2022

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Stories of Leadership: Adolfo Gonzales

Adolfo Gonzales, '89, is the chief of the San Diego County Bureau of Investigations.
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Adolfo Gonzales, ’89 received a master’s degree in education in curriculum development from San Diego State University as a way to learn more about training his police officers. He now works as the Chief of the San Diego County Bureau of Investigations.

Gonzales began his law enforcement career as a reserve police officer with the San Diego Police Department and consistently worked his way up the chain of command to detective, sergeant, lieutenant, commander, captain and eventually assistant Chief of Police.

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Adolfo Gonzales

He left the San Diego Police Department to take on the Chief of Police position in National City in 2004. Gonzales has been recognized with many honors and awards over the years, including “Excellence in Public Service” from UCSD, “Chief of Police of the Year” by the Neighborhood Market Association and a “Leadership Award” from the National Latino Police Chief’s Association.

Tell us the highlights of your professional career. What are your proudest achievements?

I’m proud to have had the opportunity to change an organization’s culture and provide strong leadership. In National City, we went 18 months without a homicide and this was the first time we had done so since 1963.

When I was with the San Diego Police Department, I am proud of the ways we provided safety along the border. Now, working with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, I am proud of how we provide public assistance and are saving millions of dollars through our investigations.

What’s your favorite college memory?

I always enjoyed spending time in the old library on campus. I would spend so much time there balancing my work schedule and classes that occasionally, I would even fall asleep there! I actually attended school for two years without telling my supervisor because I feared they would think I was planning to leave them. It was quite a balancing act.

Who was your favorite professor and/or what was your favorite class?

Statistics. Even though my major was education, this class helped me immensely in my career. Things that I learned in that class, such as accounting and budgeting, I still use today.

If you were to give current SDSU students some advice, what would you say?

I would tell them to follow their three “P’s,” passion, persistence and patience. I give my children, police officers and employees the same advice. Find what you’re good at and follow it. Success doesn’t happen overnight.

What are you currently reading? What’s your favorite book?


My favorite book is "Good to Great" by Jim Collins.

What is your passion?

Service. I am a firm believer in public service, giving back to the community, employees, community and America at large. I want to make San Diego one of the safest places in the country. I always tell my officers, do something good for at least one person every day. By the end of your career, you will have helped thousands of people.

What is your motto?

“One team, one mission” – one team to provide a mission to prevent crime and intervene in areas like workers compensation, fraud and crime prevention.

If you won the lottery, what would you do with your winnings?


I would pay off the mortgages for the homes in my family. I would also donate to an endowment for education and for cancer research. In education, I’d create a fund to put kids through a police explorer program. I’ve lost several friends to cancer so this is close to my heart, too.

Which trait do you value most in your friends and colleagues?

Integrity and ethics. I believe we are all part of the formula for success and that we have a purpose, not just for ourselves but for others, too.

If you knew you could not fail, what would you attempt?

I would ride a motorcycle. My mother told me that I could be a police officer, but that I was not to ride motorcycles. So far, her advice has worked!