Santa Barbara Police Chief Updates City Council on Her First Year Heading Department

Release Date: July 26,2017

Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow
Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow

Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow told the City Council on Tuesday that she and the department have been working hard to change the culture.

Luhnow’s report to the City Council came one year after she was hired to lead the department

Luhnow took over a department that was hobbled by low morale, recruiting difficulties and the specter of retired police chief Cam Sanchez, who had fallen out of favor with some staff and members of the community.

Sanchez in 2011 tried to leave Santa Barbara for a job in San Bernardino, but word leaked that he was passed over for the job, and his relationship with his bosses and the community was never the same.

Sanchez also surprised many in the community when he supported a gang injunction, which was denied by a Superior Court judge in 2014. 

The city hired interim police chief John Cromback after Sanchez retired, and Luhnow was hired last year.

Since she took over, the department has hired 15 new officers and currently have 134 out of 142 authorized positions filled.

The department has also hired a downtown beat coordinator, school resource officer and added a second restorative policing officer.

The city has seen a 4-percent decline in property crime and violent crime in the last fiscal year, Luhnow told the City Council.

Most of the property crimes reported were car burglaries, scooter thefts and commercial burglaries.

“We have a safe community,” Luhnow said. “I want to make sure it is safer.”

The department worked to identify and assist three homeless individuals in the community who had been involved in 1,600 incidents over the past 10 years.

“That was the biggest timesuck we could have ever imagined,” Luhnow said.

She said the department worked to find placement for the individuals.

“We’re not going to solve homelessness by arresting people,” she said.

Since last summer, the city’s restorative policing team, which works with the chronically homeless population, made contact with 474 clients and made 52 placements.

The city also performed 23 homeless camp cleanups.

Luhnow said the city has also reassigned its community service officers to the Public Works Department to work as so-called parking ambassadors.

“A lot of incidents that occur on State Street don’t occur when an officer is there,” she said, adding that “people react differently to police officers.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.

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