Lori Luhnow, first female chief, announces her plans
Santa Barbara Chief of Police Lori Luhnow announced Monday that she will retire Feb. 13.
She has served in law enforcement for 32 years and became Santa Barbara’s first female police chief in 2016.
“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,” Chief Luhnow said in a news release.
During her time as chief, she increased the community’s voice on the force and added civilian community members to the interview panels to guide hiring and promotion efforts.
Chief Luhnow also created a supervisor position to promote employee wellness. She gave a speech about resiliency and wellness through the Bureau of Justice Assistance VALOR initiative.
She advocated for community-oriented policing, collaborating with a range of citizens to prevent crime and solve problems.
Chief Luhnow advised her staff on evidence-based policing, and the department formed relationships with criminology, psychology and communication researchers. The research led to nationally recognized community-centric intervention.
She led the department’s website redesign, streamlined the officer application and launched a recruitment team to grow her staff.
“Chief Luhnow is a great source of pride for our city,” Mayor Cathy Murillo said in a statement. “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.”
Locally, Chief Luhnow has received awards from the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. Numerous professional associations and community groups have also honored her.
Before coming to Santa Barbara, she served as a captain in the San Diego Police Department and oversaw the Regional Police Academy, which trains existing officers and develops civilians into police officers.
“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,” said city administrator Paul Casey.
The Santa Barbara Police Department will look nationwide for a new chief of police.
In the meantime, Bernard “Barney” Melekian, assistant county executive officer for public safety for Santa Barbara County, will serve as interim chief.
He has 46 years of experience in law enforcement, including serving as Pasadena’s police chief and the undersheriff in Santa Barbara County. He was also the director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services for the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We will miss Barney’s professionalism, empathy, knowledge and wit,” County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said in a statement. “We wish him all the best as he continues to serve residents on the South Coast.”