Gardena's new police chief is highest-ranking Korean-American in South Bay

GARDENA, Calif. (KABC) -- The city of Gardena has welcomed a new police chief who is no stranger to the department.

Thomas Kang, 50, started his career in Gardena 36 years ago as a police explorer when he was only 14 years old. Now, he is the city's new top cop, sworn in on April 16.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Kang said.

He recalled he wanted to begin a career in law enforcement after watching television shows.

"One day after school, I got on my skateboard and rode to the front of the Gardena Police Department, and then applied and then the rest is history," Kang said.

Since joining the department, he has worked assignments in patrol, gang enforcement, as a canine handler and more.

Kang believes his experience in law enforcement gives him a deep understanding for his department and for the people he serves, including a large Korean community.

The Gardena native immigrated from Seoul, South Korea, with his family when he was only 5 years old.

Chief Kang, now the highest-ranking Korean-American in the South Bay, was the department's Officer of the Year in 2000. He also received the Distinguished Service Award in 2002 for running into a gas-filled home with three fellow officers to rescue four children when their father was attempting to kill himself and his kids.

Kang said he's both humbled and amazed.

"I feel blessed, but I know I didn't get here by myself. It took a lot of people. They say that it takes a village to raise a kid. Well, the city of Gardena was my village, and I was that kid," he said.

When asked, how long will he serve? The chief couldn't give an exact timeline but responded, "I started here and I'm going to retire here. I don't plan on going anywhere else."
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