Assistant Chief of Police Wally Hebeish will be Long Beach’s new chief of police starting Jan. 1, the city announced today.

Hebeish will replace current Chief Robert Luna who will retire from the LBPD at the end of the year. Luna is running for Los Angeles County Sheriff, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Jim McDonnell, who successfully made the jump from LBPD chief to sheriff before being unseated by current Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

“I am extremely grateful and honored for the opportunity to lead the employees of the Long Beach Police Department in serving our community,” Hebeish said in a statement. “I look forward to building on the many advancements we have made under the guidance of Chief Luna and continuing our efforts in modernizing our organization in a manner that strengthens public trust, improves employee wellness, and demonstrates accountability and transparency.”

Hebeish will come into his new role on the heels of a spike in gun violence and amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across Long Beach. LBPD has struggled to bring up vaccination rates among its officers, with a citywide mandate looming but no deadline yet announced.

Hebeish, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, has spent all but one of those years with the LBPD. He started his career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 1994 but quickly moved to the LBPD. He’s been seen as a frontrunner for the top job since Luna announced his retirement in September. He’s worked closely with Luna for years, working as his chief of staff before ascending in rank, reaching deputy chief in 2017 and then assistant chief—the department’s second in command—in 2019.

As assistant chief, Hebeish has had an increasingly high-profile role at the department, overseeing LBPD’s new office of constitutional policing and frequently appearing at official meetings—including defending his department’s use of facial recognition technology, which has been repeatedly questioned by some city commissioners.

Hebeish also served briefly as acting chief of the department earlier this year while Luna was recuperating from being struck by a truck while crossing the street.

“It is a privilege to appoint Assistant Chief Hebeish to serve as the new Police Chief for our great city,” City Manager Tom Modica said in a statement. “Chief Hebeish possesses a thorough understanding of critical issues and priorities currently affecting our Long Beach community. He continues to lead and inspire our police department personnel and has been instrumental in implementing programs and initiatives that increase public trust surrounding equity and constitutional policing, improve employee wellness, and address crime in our community.”

In October, city leaders sought input via a public survey asking community members what professional experience and characteristics they would like to see in the new police chief, which resulted in over 1,200 responses. The survey shows Hebeish will have to respond to community demands for more transparency and accountability for officers as well as with expectations that a new chief be able to reduce and prevent crime.

In a statement, Long Beach officials said they picked Hebeish after a nationwide recruitment and multi-step screening and interview process, including input from a technical panel, community panel, department head panel and management panel.

Mayor Robert Garcia praised the choice. “He is absolutely the right person to lead our police department moving forward. He’s a man of incredible integrity and has the respect of our officers,” Garcia said in a statement. “I’m grateful for his commitment to Long Beach and the historic barriers he’s breaking for Muslim Americans.”

While an executive with the LBPD, Hebeish “has implemented strategies to reduce crime, address the nationwide increase in gun violence, enhance the Police Department’s Quality of Life team to provide further resources and support for people experiencing homelessness, all while also focusing key initiatives on strengthening police-community relationships and improving public trust,” according to the city’s announcement.

Hebeish holds a master’s degree in communications with focuses in new media and marketing from Southern New Hampshire University and a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice from Cal State Long Beach.