Santa Barbara Chief of Police Lori Luhnow has announced that she will retire from a 32-year career in law enforcement on February 13, 2021. Serving as Santa Barbara’s first female Chief of Police since 2016, she oversees the Police Department’s 200 sworn and civilian staff and a budget of $44 million.
Throughout her career, Chief Luhnow has been a strong proponent of community oriented policing and collaborating with diverse communities to prevent crime through problem solving. She has focused much of her attention on organizational transformation which aligned the department structure and resources to support community partnerships. Chief Luhnow implemented evidence-based policing, leading her staff to establish relationships with academics in the fields of criminology, psychology, and communication to bring current scholarship into police practice. In doing so, the SBPD partnered with the community to develop a nationally recognized evidence-based intervention to bring together police and the public.
Chief Luhnow institutionalized a culture that fundamentally changed the department’s philosophy to 21st century policing. She created the department’s first supervisor position whose responsibility is, in part, promoting employee wellness. Chief Luhnow has spoken to national law enforcement audiences on the topic of resiliency and wellness through the Bureau of Justice Assistance VALOR initiative. Additionally, during her tenure, she introduced civilian community members on hiring and internal promotional interview panels, expanding the community’s voice and influence in its Police Department. She also took an early stand in the Police Department’s commitment to protect everyone’s rights, regardless of immigration status, ensuring that police officers did not engage in federal immigration enforcement.
To increase police officer staffing, Chief Luhnow implemented new officer recruitment strategies including a new website, streamlined application process, and a police recruitment team. She launched a Volunteers in Policing (VIP) program to enhance public outreach and assist with various law enforcement assignments, incorporating community members into the department while freeing up time for police officers to address calls for service.
Her leadership in Santa Barbara was recognized with awards from the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, in addition to numerous awards from professional associations and community groups.
Prior to her service in Santa Barbara, Chief Luhnow served as a Captain with the San Diego Police Department, responsible for the Regional Police Academy and the in-service training and development of 2,500 police officers and civilians.
“I have deep appreciation for the community of Santa Barbara and enormous gratitude for the talented and dedicated employees of the Santa Barbara Police Department. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your Chief of Police.” said Chief Luhnow.
According to City Administrator Paul Casey, “I really appreciate Lori’s leadership to work closely with the community and move the Police Department forward through many challenging issues, while also addressing the day-to-day operations and calls for service. She’s been an excellent resource to our executive team and we’ll miss working with her.”
Mayor Cathy Murillo said, “Chief Luhnow is a great source of pride for our city. She has made a tremendous contribution to creating a culture of community-focused policing through hiring, training, and policy. I congratulate her on all her success in public service and wish her the best in the future.”
While a nationwide recruitment is conducted, City Administrator Paul Casey will appoint Bernard “Barney” Melekian, Assistant County Executive Officer for the County of Santa Barbara, as the Interim Chief of Police to lead the department. He brings 46 years of law enforcement experience to the position, including serving as the Police Chief in Pasadena, the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (USDOJ) and the Undersheriff in Santa Barbara County.