Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

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Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support
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Chief Lori Luhnow (Photo: City of Santa Barbara)


By Lori Luhnow, Santa Barbara Police Chief

Communication is fundamental to how we relate to one another. People are able to convey how they see and experience the world through communication. We are able to develop empathy and change our views of the world through listening to other’s perspectives. We also send strong and impactful messages by what we choose Not to say. I have recently listened to, and spoken, much about contemporary policing, police accountability, and how we as an agency respond to the changes in societal norms and expectations. But I would be remiss if I didn’t address a void.

We need to publicly express support for the fine women and men of the Santa Barbara Police Department. What hasn’t been said matters. It matters to the officers and detectives who, day in and day out, respond to our community when they call for help. It matters to the men and women who answer the thousands of calls for help from our community which have not ended up in national controversial social media posts. It matters to the families of these officers, who see all over media outlets, hateful messages about police and threats against their lives because they wear a blue (or tan) uniform. Being proud of our officers and wanting police to evolve as a profession are not contradictory concepts.

The officers of the Santa Barbara Police Department have been practitioners of important concepts such as de-escalation and meaningful community dialogue for years. Yes, we constantly work to improve from evidence-based practices and push ourselves to expand our worldview, as all law enforcement and other government agencies should do. But let’s recognize our local officers for the fine service they provide, while continuing to move forward and participate in nationwide calls for systemic changes in the criminal justice system. Thank you to those individuals in the community who have stopped our officers on the sidewalk to say thank you, and taken the time to send handwritten notes of support.

These are difficult times. I respect those who demand equity and peacefully protest against systemic racism. I stand with you. It is not your fight. Its our fight. Everyone owns it. But I also stand with the men and women of this police department. If you think you have to choose between the two (fighting systemic racism or supporting SBPD officers), you haven’t spent much time with our officers.

Below are several items that have been requested and demanded by various organizations of local and national concern which are already implemented at our department.


The Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual requires de-escalation measures, a duty to intercede when wrong doing is witnessed, duty to preserve life and render aid regardless of circumstance. Discrimination is of course prohibited, so are choke holds. All uses of force are required to be documented.


The Santa Barbara Police Department trains officers in partnership with Santa Barbara based Just Communities. The implicit bias training exceeds state mandates and includes community panels and a Psychology Professor who specializes in implicit bias.


Assembly Bill 1421 allows public access through a standard public records request to access information pertinent to all sustained violations (police officer files) which include: dishonesty/perjury/evidence tampering; sexual assault; all officer involved shootings/related deaths.

SBPD reports all use of force incidents resulting in serious bodily injury and/or the discharge of a firearm to the California Department of Justice.

Community members sit on interview panels for all promotional interviews for Sergeant and Lieutenants.

SBPD VOICES dialogue is an evidence-based community conversation model recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and has been highlighted in policing publications.

SBPD Volunteers in Policing (VIP program) brings the community into the police department in official positions. It allows community to engage with other civilians who are ambassadors of the department. Each brings outside perspective to/expertise to department culture. That fosters a relationship between officers and civilian community.

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a-1594064535 Jul 06, 2020 12:42 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Hey Chief, please let the good people of Santa Barbara know how many warning or citations for possession and/ or use of fireworks were issued by your department this year. This last week they have been a day / night issue. Are you too busy hassling the corn vendors?

a-1594063424 Jul 06, 2020 12:23 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

I'm happy that we have a competent and pro-active police department in Santa Barbara. We need a strong police department in this community. Police officers have a dangerous job, and without them, our community would be chaos. We would be a town of fools if we were to make budgetary decisions that don't reflect this obvious fact.

PitMix Jul 06, 2020 01:02 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Analysis of 911 calls in LA Times shows only 8% of them involve a violent crime- in the City of LA! Add in another 10% for domestic abuse calls and maybe 1/5 of calls require an armed officer. How much money could we save by hiring a 50% armed and 50% unarmed police force?

PitMix Jul 06, 2020 10:57 AM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

My only comment is that she is not very responsive to the public, having reached out to her several times with questions about SBPD policies. But that is more of a public relations issue than a major concern. I support her approach to the current crisis.

mickmoon Jul 05, 2020 10:52 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Just my 2 cents; add me to the list of her supporters. I like her. She has a very tough job and sincere in her care for our community. I am a 60 plus years Santa Barbara native and have seen them all. Thank you Chief Luhnow.

Car Guy Jul 05, 2020 09:43 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Well our police chief is paid to work full time, but is only here in Santa Barbara part time. Like 3 days a week. It became evident when the captains who were put in charge during her absence, demanded police chief pay for over 600 hours of time. She is not the right person to be our police chief. We need a dedicated full time police chief that's here to support and direct our police force.

Technoid Jul 05, 2020 03:48 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

I've met her and am impressed. She has a tough line to walk. Having said that:
1. We need a formal police oversight committee staffed by elected citizens to review all instances of police use of force.
2. We need a formal police policy that holds officers that requires officers to report misbehavior by other officers and holds them equally guilty of the misbehavior if they do not. Misbehavior should be publicly reported.
3. And to that 2nd point, the union rules and department policies that hide police misbehavior from public scrutiny should be eliminated, preferably by federal law.

And BTW, if SB keeps electing a local DA who has apparently never seen ANY police misbehavior, SB can expect no change. Out with Joyce.

Lorax Jul 05, 2020 03:39 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Locally, we have a great police department that has more training time in de-escalation and communication than many.
It would be helpful if they could incorporate in their required continued training, some classes on Mental Health and Ethnic Studies.
Public Employee Union reform is needed. This is the level true change needs to happen. The “Bad” ones are protected by their powerful unions and the unions have a lot of political clout fed by elected officials and vice versa. Follow the money
This is everywhere in the unionized public sectors.
Taxpayers and those wanting more equity need to wake up and push for this.
An example, just last week, on a City Council Zoom meeting with very little public participation the controversial 711 North Milpas project was pushed thru.
The Project was approved in 2019 for 76 units, none of them affordable units.
The Council & developers struck a deal. Who got left out?
The public input and any renter to be considered for one of the few affordable units that is not a unionized employee.
The developers changed the project in style and height and adding only 16 affordable units to be designated for teachers and police.
They pointed out at the time the original project was approved, they were not required nor had they included any affordable units.
The developers requested that because they had already been approved to by pass the regular steps in the process to allow them to streamline to approve the changes and not have to go thru the regular process.
Perpetuating the status quo “rub my back, I will rub yours” worked and they do not have to resubmit the change as a new project with public input and required steps.
I think teachers and police are great, however the blatant institutional discrimination
Makes my skin crawl, that only these public employees will be offered these units.
By the pandering to the Teachers Union and City Council the developers
struck a deal.


a-1594007580 Jul 05, 2020 08:53 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

For the 121 E. Mason, next step is the ABR next week, july 13, 3pm, online or Ch 18 . Here's the city's description of the 60' rental and some commercial building.
PROJECT LOCATION: 121 EAST MASON STREET, ZONE: OC/SD-3, APN: 033-084-005, PLN 2020-00139
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Proposal for a four story mixed-use development in the Coastal Zone. Project entails demolition of existing structures
except for the 523-square-foot silo, and construction of an approximately 193,725-square-foot mixed-use development on a 2.1-acre site in the Funk
Zone. A total of 156 residential units are proposed (144 rental units and 12 condominiums), of which 29 would be affordable, with a proposed density
of 74 units per acre. The project is proposed under State Density Bonus Law and includes concessions and development standard waivers.
Proposed nonresidential floor area totals 19,202 square feet. A total of 210 parking spaces are proposed (114 residential and 96 commercial) using
a combination of standard spaces, mechanical lifts, and valet service.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Dostalek, Associate Planner, (805) 564-4552, [email protected]

a-1594006020 Jul 05, 2020 08:27 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Very interesting take on the 711N Milpas mega-building that will completely change that part of Milpas and be precedent-setting for the rest. If Ed St. George can get 52' (instead of the ordinance's required 45) so should we, they'll demand! Definite improvement in appearance over the prior iteration and who would have thought that police and teachers are the needy demographic for Milpas. But what was really under the radar was at the planning commission last Thursday, one whole block guided by Suzanne Elledge (she of the de la Guerra Plaza plans). One of the planning commissioners asked a bit mournfully to please try to save the "funk" in the "funk zone" and no one said, but there's little to none left; instead they dutifully, as though to a small child, said, yes, yes, we'll work on it. The concept hearing went on for hours and there was almost no public comment or input. One whole block, nearly two acres, 121 E. Mason, and a 298-page staff report. And most of the commissioners lapped it up. Next stop will be the ABR and, hopefully, the Covid-19 will have eased so there can be in person meetings. If not, the public will be effectively left out from this major change for Santa Barbara waterfront area, since relatively few are willing or maybe able to participate via computer.

Byzantium Jul 05, 2020 04:21 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Lorax, you nailed the soft corruptions of "affordable housing" - inside tracks to any "lottery" for these units, and granting special priority favors only to public employees (aka first responders) - who are already some of the most handsomely compensated employees in our town. Thank you for pointing out this long played insider game. Grand Jury needs to take a long, hard and deep look at our "affordable housing" policies and their witting and unwitting impacts.

a-1593974773 Jul 05, 2020 11:46 AM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Excellent chief and mostly good local cops; some bad apples always slip through.
California is one of only a handful of states without legislation to track and avoid re-hiring of bad cops.
This video says California may finally get such a law:

a-1593973620 Jul 05, 2020 11:27 AM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Although I respect the Chief and her calls for support, there are downsides to making yourself so open to public scrutiny. Remember the story of the non comforming sparrow who refused to leave for the winter and almost froze to death? The crow comes along, shits on the sparrow, and now the bird is all happy and warm and starts to sing. A cat comes along and eats the sparrow. Lessons learned? 1.Everyone who shits on you is not necessarily your enemy.
2. Everyone who gets you out of shit is not necessarily your friend.
3. If you’re warm and happy in a pile of shit, keep your mouth shut.

A Real Local Jul 05, 2020 02:28 AM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Well stated. I support our Officers. Those I have met or spoken to have always been courteous, helpful and kind. We are very lucky to have such fine men and women serving in Santa Barbara. I do hope though that the burden of some calls for service, that maybe should go to others, will soon be transferred so that our police can concentrate on real crime that is worthy of their time.

a-1593991102 Jul 05, 2020 04:18 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

There is little 'real crime" in Santa Barbara. Mainly it is a revolving door of drugs, gangs, alcohol and transients. We have nuisance crimes, property crimes for the most part -- and two systems of justice - one for vagrants and one for the rest of us. We need a police chief who lives here full time. That we do not presently have. That is really inexcusable.

midair Jul 04, 2020 09:48 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

As anyone who's ever been in the workforce can tell you it's usually no secret who the "bad apples" are in your workplace. Unions have done wonderful things for their members (paid sick leave, merit raises, reasonable time off, etc.) but they make it almost impossible to remove these bad seeds. They claim it's protecting their members rights but what are they really protecting?

a-1593922792 Jul 04, 2020 09:19 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

I do respect the work of the local SBPD, especially after having participated about 5 years ago in the weeks-long citizens academy where I learned a lot. Usually, though, I have no contact with the police but about two years ago I had a house burglary and was impressed by the thoroughness and politeness of the officers. What I do not have respect for is that the police are involved in politics, choosing which of the council candidates to support with sizable donations. That pandering to the local pols costs the SBPD support.

Marv Jul 04, 2020 08:01 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Bad joke, Chief. After throwing your officers, and frankly, your administration, under the bus by giving credence to the possibility that the same kind of treatment received by George Floyd could happen in Santa Barbara, you want us to support the officers. Actually, Chief, we were willing to do that even before you did the 'we are no better than Minneapolis' shtick. Though it would have been unpopular with the mob, you should have said that what happened to Mr. Floyd, was highly unlikely to ever happen in Santa Barbara because of your policies, the training of your officers, and the high expectations of the community. Instead you folded up. You sent the message that we better clean up SBPD because it is not better than the Minneapolis PD. Yes, you kept your job, Chief. But you gained no integrity points.

sacjon Jul 06, 2020 11:27 AM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

420722 - How is it wrong for the police chief to show solidarity with a movement against police brutality toward people of color? Does that upset you? Why? Why shouldn't the police show a commitment to uphold the law? Excessive force based on skin color alone IS illegal, after all. Odd that anyone would find that to be a problem..... then again look at most of the comments here.

a-1593924580 Jul 04, 2020 09:49 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

The kneeling is to show an acknowledgment that racism is a problem, to show they support the protestors’ cause. Personally, I think that on-duty police officers should not make gestures for or against the causes of any protestors. But the kneeling is not about asking forgiveness or admitting to being a racist.

a-1593901020 Jul 04, 2020 03:17 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Nothing is going to change the public's perception of police until all police shops around the nation get the "bad apples" out. The police unions have far too many protections when it comes to keeping most officers "safe" from discipline or firing. Until the national news stops having the nightly "Bad Cop getting busted" story, nothing will change, IMO.

Byzantium Jul 04, 2020 03:49 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

All government employee union members have the same protections. Don't just pick on the police unions. Teachers can't get rid of bad teacher either. Nor any other government bureaucrat who is wasting our tax dollars. Never should have unionized any public sector employee. Thank JFK for that dead end move.

ArtFarmer Jul 04, 2020 01:23 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

I commend our Santa Barbara Police Chief and find her comments to be common sensical, true and respectful as well as intelligent and clear. I believe there may be some confusion between the Santa Barbara Police Department Officers and the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Department Deputies behavior according to many accounts I have heard over the years. The protesters seem confused about this reality also. How about an Independent Newspaper Journalistic comparison investigative report to educate us all. I appreciate any help I and the community have received over the years. Check out the public library DVD A Ripple of Hope for another point of view on Communication.

Ahchooo Jul 04, 2020 12:59 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

I’ve had very little contact with police. I very rarely see officers up close. When I do, I smile, but I assume they’d prefer I stay out of the way, and don’t want me interrupting them. And what would I say? Do they really want random thanks from strangers they pass on the street? I would like to live in a town where I knew my local beat cops by name and felt a connection to them, but that is not how it is here. I don’t want to be on a committee or advisory panel. I used to see “coffee with a cop” events publicized but was never able to attend any. Do those still occur?

forrealnews Jul 04, 2020 12:39 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

This is absolutely tone deaf and tone policing at its finest. This is exactly why not only bias training should be required but deep, long-term anti-racist training which goes into why all of the language and the argument used here is so incredibly problematic and harmful. If police can't handle not being revered at all moments, they need the training in resilience that comes with anti-racism training. This is like the abusive father who screams at his family for not being properly respected. He does some good things but if you address the abuse with the rightful anger that it should be addresses, you are being ungrateful, gaslighted, and further abused as a result. Here's a simple thing...don't abuse, don't kill unnecessarily (which is almost every circumstance), don't keep the secrets of other police who have abused their power, don't disproportionately stop people of color more than white people...DO get anti-bias and anti-racism training, DO take de-escalation strategy training that makes any form of violence GENUINELY last resort, DO work on the authoritarian communication you use and learn non-violent forms of communication, DO understand you are no more important than anyone else due to your career choice, DO get to know all communities personally, DO become actual PEACE officers involved in changing the system to rehabilitation and not punishment. THEN you will receive the respect that is shown consistently to be earned.

a-1593888636 Jul 04, 2020 11:50 AM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

Whoa... We "need" to publicly express our support for our local police?? They are doing their JOB, not some volunteer hero assignment. Geez...I really like Chief Luhnow, but this piece hits me as completely tone deaf.

a-1593931152 Jul 04, 2020 11:39 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

That was my first reaction also, and I've worked public and municipal jobs that left me open to abuse from the public. Customer service and proper behavior were always stressed by my bosses. Even in the face of abuse. (We were of course allowed a strong response when necessary, including calling law enforcement. Ironic, huh.)

a-1593894836 Jul 04, 2020 01:33 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Asks for Community Support

This essay (her second since the BLM stuff broke out) seems more directed to the raising her standing within the department and with local politicians as rumors circulate that she is to be the latest lamb sacrificed in the name of calming the critics. As an appointed department head it should not be her place to post these things ABSENT approval from her bosses.

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