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Former Lansing police officer becomes first openly gay head of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Chris Magnus 2
Posted at 7:33 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 19:34:42-05

LANSING, Mich. — Former Lansing police officer Chris Magnus is now leading U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the country's largest law enforcement agency, and the first openly gay man to serve in that role.

His former partner on the force Mary Stevens said Magnus, who started as an officer at the Lansing Police Department in 1985, was always looking toward big goals.

“I'm excited for him to have this opportunity," Stevens said. "I just kind of laugh because I know,he's a guy who always likes a challenge, but I was like... could you find a bigger challenge than this?”

Prior to becoming an officer, Magnus was a dispatcher and a paramedic.

He then attended police academy at Lansing Community College before joining the force first as an officer. He later became a captain.

Stevens said Magnus made an effort to work with community leaders.

“At that time, Lansing had a very strong community policing focus," Stevens said. "And Chris really did embrace that, as an officer as command officer, that we needed to work with the community.”

Magnus also wrote the department's report writing guidebook, which instructed officers on writing thorough and accurate police reports, a topic he would later teach at the Mid-Michigan Police Academy.

“It took a lot of persuasion and a lot of work on his part—but he got it done," Stevens said. "And it was something that benefited all the officers. And a lot of people didn't know who did it. And he didn't do it to get credit, he did it because he thought it was something that was needed.”

After almost 15 years with the Lansing Police Department, Magnus was hired as police chief in Fargo, ND in 1999. In 2006, he became police chief in Richmond, CA, where he was photographed holding a Black Lives Matter sign at a protest. In January 2016 Magnus took on the role of police chief in Tuscan, Arizona. He resigned in June 2020 after a civilian died in Tuscon police custody.

In April, President Joe Biden nominated him for the position of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol commissioner. Magnus was sworn in in December, making him the first openly gay man to hold the position.

"I think he probably would acknowledge the fact that it's a barrier broken," Stevens said. "But I think in the end, for Chris, it's more about doing the job.”

Magnus received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice and master's degree in labor relations from Michigan State University.

Magnus entered the role as the agency contends with one of the largest spikes in migration along the U.S.-Mexico border in decades.

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