Chris Haley, ’89, finds satisfaction from decades of serving public safety.
The experience of waiting in the lobby of the San Diego Police Department’s (SDPD) central station is unlike any other—there is a distinctly foreboding feel to the place, spoken mostly in the glances between patrons, an air of dark curiosity about the circumstances that bring people to interact with the law.
Which is what makes Christine “Chris” Haley, Warren ’89, seem so out of place when she arrives to greet us—warm and cheery, like she’s inviting us to her home as we head upstairs to her office. Haley’s demeanor may be far from the classic hardboiled crimefighter, but just one conversation proves that this environment is exactly where she belongs.
Haley has worked at the SDPD ever since she graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in economics. Though she has never worked out on the streets, she has considerable knowledge about the many facets of crime. As the SDPD’s supervising data analyst, Haley provides officers with the crucial information they need to respond and properly protect our communities. For over 25 years, it’s been a career that aligns perfectly her core values and professional ambition.
“I really wanted to help my community,” Haley says. “I grew up in San Diego [and] lived here pretty much my whole life. My parents both worked for the county. My boyfriend at the time, now husband, worked for the county. So public service is ingrained in what I believe in.”
Throughout her time at SDPD, she has been tasked with everything from testing software programs for police officers to her current charge of leading the information services program. Haley is now organizing a total renovation of the department’s communication technology, while continuing to provide the vital statistics that benefit officers in the field and the public at large. In short, she’s improving how data analysis can help curb crime.
As one would expect with a career spanning over two and a half decades, Haley has seen the department undergo a considerable evolution. With a smile, she recalls the process of collecting data when she first started. “I still have this,” she says, producing an aged green ruler and pointing out the thick black ring encircling one of the holes, the product of many pencils plotting crime locations on a paper map. Naturally, this was before computer technology changed everything.
“We went from one resource-room computer that nobody used, to there being a line to use it, to us each having our own,” Haley says. Yet the technology is not the only thing that has grown—Haley can see a change in herself as well. Reflecting on her beginnings at the department, she explains how as a newcomer she viewed crime through slightly more innocent eyes.
“I can tell you I was really naïve when I started working for the department,” Haley says with a laugh. “‘People don’t actually rob banks, right? I mean, really?’ I really thought that when I was in college.”
Now with a world of experience under her belt, Haley certainly sees things differently. A bird’s-eye view of crime in one of America’s biggest cities can yield a stark and perhaps daunting understanding of the criminal world, yet she has always maintained an optimistic outlook.
“My eyes have been opened [to] a lot of things that hopefully people don’t have to know about, I suppose, but there’s a lot of encouraging stuff, too,” she says. “In the 25 years that I’ve been here, crime is down a lot. It’s gone down almost every year since I’ve been here.”
For her years of dedicated service, Haley was recently honored as one of three women at the San Diego Police Foundation’s fifth annual Women in Blue luncheon. “That award was really humbling to me,” she says. “While it’s traditionally been a male-dominated field in general, that’s changing. There are more and more women. The women that have been recognized in the last five years are amazing. So to be included in that is seriously humbling. I was really amazed when that happened.”
From the rookie days of plotting crime hotspots with her ruler to becoming a recognized leader in her field, Haley loves where she’s landed and has remained ever loyal to public service for the good of the community. And while that may not be the stuff of C.S.I. drama, it remains the major reason why her job has impact.
“I like feeling like I’m making a difference. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to work in the public sector rather than private sector: making a difference. I want to do something for the community,” she says. “I feel like I make a difference here in some small way, and it’s not a paper-pushing kind of difference. It’s a real difference.”