Graham, 50, said, "I'm totally elated at this point. It's what I have wanted to do; I have built my career around it."
Graham said Monday his first duty will be to tackle the department's staffing shortage. The department has four full-time officer positions vacant and four officers off duty with work-related injuries. The department is close to hiring two officers who are going through background checks.
Graham has started a program to recruit people from within the community. The department will conducts tests that would allow those who pass to attend a police academy and join the force.
"It's imperative to rebuild the department," Graham said.
With proper staffing the department would be able to follow through with programs, including the cops-in-schools program the department has received funding to implement.
Graham said once the department has enough officers, one will serve the high school and elementary districts.
Graham said he wants to see the department expand its technology. Patrol units now have computers, and soon will have video-audio cameras installed. Later, Graham said, he wants to install speed radars in each patrol unit.
The rebuilding process and addition of technology could take more than a year, Graham said, adding part of the effort entails other promotions in the department. He said lieutenant positions will have to be filled, and as sergeants are promoted, officers will have to be promoted to fill the sergeant slots.
"One kind of leapfrogs the other," he said of the staffing changes and promotions. "It's a big step for the whole department."
Graham credited officers and staffers, stating they are working hard to meet the needs of the city.
Santillan said this morning he is pleased to see Graham take the helm of the department.
"We are pretty proud that he has joined the team," Santillan said.
Santillan added he supports Graham's efforts to recruit local people to build the police force.
Councilman Jo Shields said, "I believe Lt. Graham and now Chief Graham has been an asset to the Police Department along with Lt. Kuhn. Together they have done an admirable job of leading the department."
She added, "I have the utmost faith that Chief Graham will continue his excellent leadership of the Police Department."
Graham is an Imperial Valley native who graduated from Brawley Union High School and Imperial Valley College and joined the Brawley Police Department in 1971 through a work program run by IVC. He became a sworn officer in 1973.
Graham, who has a bachelor's degree in social science and a master's in public administration — both from San Diego State University — was promoted to lieutenant in 1986.
He resides in Westmorland with his wife, Pamela. They have four children.
Graham said he wanted to thank all those who have supported him in his quest to become chief.
He called the role "a peak" in his career, and added Brawley is where he started his career and where he will finish it.
"This is where I put my roots and this is where I want to finish," Graham said, adding he is not thinking about endings right now.
>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.