Santa Barbara Police Chief Condemns George Floyd Murder

SBPD Chief Lori Luhnow speaking during a press conference on public safety on April 20, 2020 (file photo)

By Lori Luhnow, Santa Barbara City Chief of Police

Certain events in policing, whether involving police action or inaction, evoke such a depth of emotion that I feel a moral imperative to address them. I believe this to be the responsibility of all police leaders, whether the message is to defend unpopular actions of police officers, or, as in the case of George Floyd, bring attention to harmful and hurtful actions by officers whose poor decisions tarnish the profession. I am deeply disturbed by Mr. Floyd’s death. It was preventable and should not have happened.

As such, we must not shy away from having courageous conversations and dialogue. It is through dialogue that we hear other people’s stories and perspectives and learn to empathize with each other. Historically, law enforcement has contributed to the marginalization of many disadvantaged groups, including African Americans. It is the responsibility of current law enforcement leaders to take measures to prevent those actions from occurring.

The Santa Barbara Police Department partners with community groups and leaders to ensure that we continue to be a learning organization. It is our culture. We value and depend upon our community’s engagement with our department. These partnerships have allowed us to have meaningful dialogues with groups who have experienced difficult relationships with law enforcement in the past. They have also enhanced our ability to provide training for our officers on important topics such as principled policing and implicit bias, and to engage local community members to participate in that training.

Police officers have a duty to uphold the law. I expect our officers, myself included, to apply the law in a way that prioritizes and respects the sanctity of life. That includes a duty to intervene when officers are acting outside of the law or policy. It is our policy and our moral obligation.

I am proud of the officers of the Santa Barbara Police Department. I am exposed every day to the high moral standards, respect, and empathy they demonstrate. We, as sworn officers, are granted the authority to protect our community. We understand that we must do so with a blend of humanity, empathy, and fairness to maintain our public’s trust.


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  1. M-Cubed – as if it were that easy. Poof! All is good. No, this is not “there ya go,” there needs to be MASSIVE changes in our society. People of color shouldn’t have to live with this fear. They shouldn’t have to now be concerned that Trump is threatening to send in the military to “start shooting.” This is disgusting and must change. The arrest is a start, but far from being the solution. He needs to be convicted and jailed, then the rest of his accomplices need the same. THEN, we need to start taking the racism problem in our country SERIOUSLY. We have a LONG way to go……

  2. This may seem like just lip service, but its REALLY encouraging to hear a police chief stand for what’s RIGHT, vs protecting her own. I’ve had a LOT of interactions with SBPD, and never ONCE did I feel that I was being targeted because of my race (black). I feel safe in Santa Barbara, as regards to the police. Thank you for keeping our community safe and for standing up for what’s right and just.

  3. Totally agree X01660 . It is shocking how racist this country still is. After recent events in Georgia, NY Central Park and now in Minnesota I hope that more police chiefs and the DOJ get involved to speak out and take action against brutality and racism and to convict these thugs of murder and violations of civil rights where appropriate. This country should be way too evolved to ignore these racist actions.

  4. It takes alot for a Police Officer, or a Chief to go against the Tide and voice their opinion I know this is not lip service, this Police Chief is True Blue by the Book and we are lucky to have her here in Santa Barbara.

  5. I’m an old white guy, raised in the Deep South. I went to all white public schools, used white only water fountains, bathrooms, restaurants and sat in the front of the bus.
    In my childhood, segregation was so complete, that I did not know the name of a single black person, except my mothers maid.
    I was always confused by the meanness and small mindedness of people in my formative years. In 1969 I hitchhiked to California and was pleased to find a people of much less class structure. Outside of the South, the depth and insidious tenacity of racism is incomprehensible, and it is mostly an academic issue. The results of hundreds of years of enslavement and brutal oppression of blacks resulted in multiple generations of a poverty stricken, disenfranchised and woefully uneducated people living in concentrations of third world conditions.
    The states in the western part of our nation were all slave free and mostly settled after the Civil War. The recent political discourse now includes nation-wide divisive talk that highlights the value of white people and once again speaks with distain of people of color.
    My observation is that the recent resurgence of racism escalated during the administration of our nations’ first black president. Not by something he did, but by what he was. During his presidency, I once again began to hear the fowl, ignorant language of my childhood and it appears that the subsequent administration succeeded in capitalizing on the divisiveness.
    I don’t think I can hitchhike my way out of this one..

  6. Well, I for one am bothered that a non-elected department head feels the need to jump out in this. She should keep her shop in order (which I think she has done). This bad cop issue is along way from her turf. She should not be seeking to make news or controversy. If the media seeks her out she can respond but she should get her authority from those that are elected to manage/supervise her. This sort of spotlight hunting seems inappropriate to me no matter how much I agree with the message. Is she running for office next?

  7. Many police chiefs across the nation are speaking out on this issue. They are speaking not to the cop that killed Floyd, but to the 3 that stood by and watched it happen. They are reminding their cops that this is not acceptable behavior. I fully support what she is doing.

  8. RHS- I could not disagree with you more. I believe that it is her responsibility to speak out against injustice when she can. Especially something so disturbing including a police officer’s abuse of power and to the officers that ignored and decided not to intervene in the murder of this innocent by a thug cop. By doing so, she lets her officers know where she and the department stands in regards to policy and in regards to the culture of the department and of our community. We must all speak out about this. Not doing so would be an injustice.

  9. ‘poor decision’ .. ‘preventable death’ … unless she’s ready to call it murder our police chief should just stay away from the subject. she almost sounds like she’s trying to soften our perspective on what we all see on video.

  10. @858, what PITMIX said, and also against the downsides of police brotherhood (there are upsides, too) and “protecting their own over the public” attitude that is rampant in corrupt departments, and even within small factions of good departments.

  11. Shorebird, it seems to me that you are one trying to make this a sexist thing. I said nothing to that point in my commentary. Let’s stay on topic. And, yes, I would say the same to a male appointed department head.

  12. Joesixpack, times have changed. A lot. We’ve come a long way from slavery in California (a very long way) and our slaves were Asians not Africans, but having moved from paradise on the beach to a small rural town In Mississippi a few years back we were rather pleasantly surprised at the social scene. Unlike SoCal, restaurants in Mississippi never try to seat my wife and I at separate tables if we walk in together, nor do people stare at us openly walking hand in hand in public. We never once experienced any hostility over a mixed race marriage in California but the occasional awkward moments just don’t happen at all in the South. As for the chief of police in our old home town commenting on events in the Midwest, I am far (FAR) more interested in what she’s doing to train her own force to be comfortable around all races, classes (other than the criminal classes), etc. and to know the reasonable limits on the use of violence as a “motivational aid” but I cannot think of anything negative to say about anyone condemning a homicide.

  13. Yeti I am happy that anyone is against “injustice”, I have no problem with that person speaking out. It is, however, when the person dons the mantle of “title” to give greater emphasis that I object. The chief of police is an appointed department head who should support the elected representatives and carry our their instructions on behalf of their constituency. She has no constituency of her own. Imagine if he “went rogue” and opined about the need for oil and gas revenue to support the police department for example.

  14. Breaks my heart that these pieces of garbage (I can’t call them police officers, just can’t) did to this man! I hope that they are tried for murder and that the department looks deeply into all of their officers that have a history of abuse and GET RID OF THEM. That needs to be the next big thing to sweep our country – housecleaning in the police force. This is happening too often, it is unacceptable. I’m grateful to live in a city where I have never felt our police force was corrupt. However, I benefit from white privilege and if that weren’t the case maybe I would feel differently. Maybe I’m naive but I want ALL of our citizens to feel safe walking down the street, period!

  15. Sure, probably true that a riot like in MN will never happen in SB. Still doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t make a statement that could diffuse even one person from acting up against the SBPD. It’s no sweat off her back.

  16. If one of our local officers did something heinous, Chief Luhnow would be expected to respond. It’s appropriate for her to respond to the Minneapolis incident because it makes it clear that she takes her leadership seriously. She knows she is responsible to the people of Santa Barbara. At first I thought, well duh, of course she thinks kneeling on arrestees necks isn’t right. But it doesn’t hurt to say it, and to let us know she is paying attention.

  17. I’m one who doesn’t automatically believe the mainstream media’s account of a police officer’s actions even with the video evidence. The police often have to make split second decisions to preserve their lives and others. Video evidence can be cut or edited to make something worse than it was.
    That said, there’s no excusing what these officers did and not video technology that exists that could frame them. They murdered this guy on the street while he and onlookers begged them to stop. Not in a split second shooting but for several minutes while he was utterly compliant.
    That, incredibly, isn’t the worst part – at least to me. It’s that the officers and their command structure just considered this another day’s work. So much so that despite overwhelming evidence they refused to arrest the officers for murder. There’s nobody in the nation that’s allowed to commit such a publicly obvious, heinous crime and not be arrested and charged. And the refused to do so for DAYS despite public calls to do so, protests, and bloody riots. They DID arrest a CNN news crew with no cause on live TV despite the crew showing their press badges. They finally arrested ONE of the perps today.
    These cops will get their day in court. That’s something they didn’t afford the victim. But the entire Minneapolis Police Department chain of command, city prosecutors office, city government, along with much of the rank and file need to be purged from their jobs. remember the LA Riots having served with the National Guard there. That wasn’t a case of “let’s fly off the handle because ONE GUY got beat by the cops.” It was the tipping point after years of LAPD abuse and no attempts to address it. I believe Minneapolis is the same way.
    How the hell can a city full of Democrats have a police department OK with race and use of force policies most Republican cops south of the Mason Dixon consider out of line?

  18. I’m so sick of seeing the police get away with murder. They are public servants supposed to keep the peace, and WE pay them. The days of militarized police and the ol’ police brotherhood needs to go the way of the dodo. They need to be held accountable. I am heartened to see ANY police coming out and speaking out against this, but she should have called it what it was: MURDER.

  19. XO1660, if you have not had any negative interactions with the SBPD while being black, you have been remarkably fortunate. Just ask my son who has had the opposite experience quite a number of times. This included spending a night in jail because of an identity mix-up, as well as several hostile encounters where a police officer made an assumption that my son may have committed malfeasance merely on the basis of, for example, carrying a backpack or riding a nice bike or while on his way to or from a night-time job. It is good to see that the police chief is doing her best to maintain high ethical standards in the police department but the fact is that some inherent bias still exists.

  20. the other three cops are also guilty of accessory to murder and should be charged. There are many people of color rotting inside our prison system who are guilty by association…this is not enough…and now to look up what murder in the third degree means. This was a wilful and deliberate act..not an accident. All four of these crooked cops should be taken off the streets and locked up! Too bad, so sorry if they have families and children.. kids will be better off without these animals as their fathers!

  21. I have two good friends who live in the Minneapolis area. They both tell me that the police department there has been corrupt for a long time. They believe that the entire police force should be eliminated and replaced with new officers.

  22. Redlining remains an institutional racist policy denying legacy wealth building to black families, and you can see it in every town and city, including Santa Barbara. There are many other aspects of this kind of institutional racism. Schools, markets, medical services all then scale and value relative to the housing and wealth of a district or neighborhood. So it isn’t just the cops, or the ‘south’. And it isn’t just those who are actively making choices based on these considerations. It’s every other person just ignoring it, or looking the other way.
    And the looting done by policy, legally by those who buy the politicians and the politicians that have to spend half their time fund raising, are all complicit passively in the anger and violence done by the cops, as well as the rioters. Violence is far too much a way of life, in and out of our homes.
    Until we make the well being of all a priority over getting ‘mine’, and feeling safe from whatever (virus anyone?), we all will suffer more of these episodes.
    Good on the Lori for stepping out. We are not her audience. Her force is who needed to hear this.

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