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Chief Has a Few Tricks Up His Sleeve

Greg Finch uses talent in magic to connect with his community

Campbell Police Chief Greg Finch can’t magically make crime disappear.

But he’s sawed a woman in half, put back together a shredded newspaper, and performed thousands of other illusions and tricks that continue to amaze colleagues and residents of this Silicon Valley city of about 40,000.

People who can make a living performing magic aren't exactly common – for example, it’s said that there are more nuns than magicians in the world, and how many people have close friends who are nuns?

Finch, however, is a semi-professional magician, having performed since age 12 – with plans to go professional after he retires from law enforcement.

Now 48, Finch has spent his entire 26-year career as a cop with the Campbell P.D., of which he has been chief since 2009.

He got into magic after seeing a neighbor perform. After honing his skills mostly doing parlor tricks (performing for small audiences), Finch had to put magic on the back burner for several years because of school and work. It wasn’t until 2000 when Finch, who was born in New York but raised in California since the age of 11, picked up the craft again in earnest.

He used to drive his three children crazy practicing at home but now his daughters (19, 16 and 12) and wife, Tonie, a teacher at Los Alamitos Elementary School in San Jose, eat it all up.

Now, he uses magic to bond with residents and leaders of Campbell, which is protected by Finch’s force of 41 sworn officers and 28 other staff members.

You will find Finch performing at school assemblies, community events and even official city meetings, dazzling people with such classic tricks as multiplying sponge balls and linking and unlinking supposedly solid rings of steel.

He also performs while serving as emcee at such functions as the annual Santa Clara County Dispatcher of the Year award banquet, held in April.

“In law enforcement, our job is to solve mysteries,” Finch says. “As a magician, we spend time creating mysteries.”

Finch often tries out new tricks on his Campbell P.D. colleagues. Sometimes during meetings, officers will ask him to perform. Finch sometimes will oblige, but he’s careful to keep his hobby separate from his profession.

“People’s expectations of a Police Chief are for him or her to be chiefly,” Finch says. 

He sees a similarity between being a magician and a Police Chief.

“As a chief, we are the ‘front’ of the department, the decision-maker, and all the focus is on you,” Finch says. “That’s the same for magicians, when all eyes are on you.”

“In both cases, you have to make clear, good decisions. There are parallels between how people view you as the person who makes the decisions and comes up with the solutions.”

Finch says he may retire from the Campbell P.D. in 2016, after which he plans to become a professional magician and go on the speaking circuit to talk about “The Magic of Leadership,” incorporating illusions and tricks into his presentation.

He also dreams of opening a theater/dining establishment devoted to magic.

Still no word on whether he will perform there under the nickname he currently uses:

Chief Trick.

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