A glance into Chief Her’s mind sheds light on how his past shaped him into who he is today. He uniquely serves others as a result of embracing his roots. Service and connection to the community are the reason he got into law enforcement instead of following his goal to become a pediatrician. He dreaded being inside of an office on a daily basis. As a Chief, he is constantly on the move to different meetings, walk-throughs, and can even be found conducting traffic stops to educate young drivers about traffic safety.
Her was one of the founding police officers hired in 2005 and recalls purchasing the first patrol car on Craigslist. Ranchers Road was still dirt. It was a challenge on rainy days to put it mildly. He instantly formed relationships with students and found himself building the department’s student Community Service Officer program. He believes in encouraging the students to look at their hardships as obstacles building them up instead of hindering them. shares his story of coming to the United States as a refugee in an effort to display nothing is impossible.
His passion as a Chief is to form connections with genuine people. His position by title requires him to make decisions about safety and providing leadership with critical information in their decision making.
Chief is process oriented and cares about details in between a starting point and result. The annual UCMPD Holiday parade float reflects how he blends his love for building things at the same time of showing his enthusiasm for Merced. Chief Her has resided in many areas of the city. It is his home and he “knows it like the back of his hand.”
Watching his face light up while talking about the joy he feels with his three children in his garage “tinkering” with a bucket of what some may view as junk demonstrates how his brain operates. To Chief, it is treasure. He will examine an old rusty nut to pair with a shiny bolt he found in a parking lot for a do-it-yourself project. His recent discovery of magnetic fishing gives him something fun to look forward to.
One of his roles in the family was to serve as a Hmong translator when his parents went to the store, DMV, or doctor’s office. Like many of UC Merced’s first-generation students, these translating situations were sometime very awkward, embarrassing and challenging, particularly when the translation involved women’s health. It wasn’t until the fifth grade when he discovered the school district finally hired a Hmong translator to be present during parent/teacher conferences.
He wanted to join the high school woodshop and mechanics shop classes. They required fees his family did not have the means to pay at the time. During a very rainy day he sought a warm building to stay dry in. He stumbled into a recruitment talk for high schoolers to join the Explorer program at the Sheriff’s office. It peeked his interest, but he was hesitant to share his excitement with his parents. In the Hmong community, there was uneasiness toward law enforcement as crime is handled between the Hmong elders.
Chief eventually won his parent’s approval and jumped in head first. The Explorer program was free and was an outlet for him to explore and see things outside of Merced.
A cultural obstacle he feared in his mind due to his culture, was introducing his girlfriend (now wife/partner) of three years to his parents. He feared rejection and a negative response because she is Hispanic. Chief’s parents were very welcoming because they encouraged him to follow his heart to ensure he would be happy throughout his life. Chief learned sometimes the things we all fear are worse in our minds than reality.
Chief’s three children are bi-racial. He empowers them to love all of their identities but is aware they may never be fully accepted by either community due to being Hmong and Hispanic. This fuels him to ensure UC Merced Police Department is inclusive of all, welcoming of differences, and celebrates diversity.
As a fourth grader, Chief joined his parents in the fields to pick berries and harvest walnuts for $2-4 a day. Chief wore a tool to remove the stems off strawberries. His classmates never knew of the work he did in the fields. Chief remembers having to hide in the field whenever the sound of a farmer’s quad was heard to avoid his parents getting into trouble for having him work as a child.
He gave most of his earnings to his parents for bills. His first purchase was a pair of Pro-wing tennis shoes from Payless. He was excited to purchase a new pair of socks on his own. Still to this day, he struggles to justify spending more than forty dollars on boots for his profession. As a Chief, he is very money conscientious, which helps the University to save resources.
He was one of eight children residing in a small house requiring him to share a bedroom with two siblings. As a middle child, half of his siblings were refugees and the younger half were born in the United States. Chief’s desk was a folding metal chair he would take outside in order to concentrate on homework or the open kitchen table after everyone has gone to bed.
He cannot imagine the pressure students face today with distance learning in an environment similar to his childhood home. He has compassion and empathy for our students trying to receive an education from a chaotic and fully occupied home.
Chief Her’s roots are deeply woven into the city of Merced and at UC Merced. His vision is to continue to hire officers, dispatchers, and staff who uplift and empower our students through all of the struggles they face.