Timothy Jackman may hold the new rank of chief of police of the Santa Monica Police Department, but deep down he still considers himself to be a police officer first and foremost.

“A police chief is just a police officer with a rank,” said Jackman, 47, who began serving as Santa Monica police chief Monday, December 11th.

“I am, at the core, a police officer. I’ve always prided myself on being an officer.”

Jackman comes to Santa Monica after 23 years of law enforcement service with the Long Beach Police Department, where he rose through the ranks to become the second-in-command as deputy chief of the Investigations Bureau.

He takes over for former Police Chief James Butts, who stepped down from the position after 15 years to become deputy executive director of law enforcement and protection services for Los Angeles World Airports.

Jackman was chosen by Santa Monica city manager Lamont Ewell after a two-month nationwide search. Ewell called Jackman a “cop’s cop,” who has a broad range of experience and expertise.

When he was appointed as the top police officer in Santa Monica last month, Jackman said he was able to fulfill a longtime dream — one that could be traced to his desire at an early age to enter law enforcement.

“I wanted to be a police officer since I was a little boy,” said Jackman, who lives in Lakewood with his wife and has two sons from a previous marriage.

Jackman, a former U.S. Marine, became interested in being a police officer for the “service aspect” and he says that in the small New Hampshire town where he grew up police were always helpful and knew the community members.

Being able to relate to people is an important quality every good police chief should have, Jackman said.

In his first week on the job in Santa Monica, Jackman said he was “very busy” getting out and meeting people in the community, including some members of the City Council and Chamber of Commerce, and residents, as well as youths at a Police Activities League holiday gift-giving event.

“It’s been a good season to become a police chief,” said Jackman, referring to all of the holiday events that allow him to meet local people.

Santa Monica police Captain Wendell Shirley noted the new chief’s efforts to reach out in his first week and meet people within the police department and around the city.

“He’s really hit the ground running,” Shirley said.

Shirley called Jackman a “very sincere man” who is committed to continuing the quality of service of the Santa Monica Police Department.

In meeting various community members during his first week on the job, Jackman said he also had an opportunity to talk with the family of slain Santa Monica High School student Eddie Lopez, who was shot to death in the Pico Neighborhood in late February.

The suspect in the shooting is still at large, but Jackman said he assured Lopez’s family that the police department is “actively investigating” and remains committed to capturing the suspect responsible for Lopez’s death.

As police chief, Jackman said dealing with issues of youths and gang violence will be a main challenge, adding that the gang problem in Santa Monica is imported from surrounding communities.

Police and city officials need to continue working on finding more ways to keep youths off the streets and from resorting to violence, he said.

“The community is rich with programs for kids,” Jackman said.

While working in Long Beach, Jackman was known to have a strong track record in youth services and youth violence prevention and he worked with the Long Beach Unified School District to pilot new initiatives.

Although Long Beach is a much larger city than Santa Monica, the two cities are alike in many ways, Jackman said. They both have a tourism industry, as well as an airport and a beach, he noted.

And they also face similar challenges related to homelessness, he said.

In Long Beach, Jackman developed a program in 2004 to train officers on alternatives in coping with homeless and mentally ill people and he worked with mental health professionals to train more than 100 officers.

Jackman said he is impressed with Santa Monica’s ability to provide service alternatives for the homeless and he plans to look at what other cities are doing in regard to homelessness to try to improve the situation in Santa Monica.

As he begins to lead the Santa Monica police force, Jackman says his plan is to speak with community members to get input on what they want and expect from the police department.

Among Jackman’s primary goals is to continue the work of Butts in helping to bring the city to its lowest crime rate in 50 years and to keep the city a safe place to live.

“I look at the big challenge as being how to keep it going that way,” Jackman said.