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Santa Barbara - South County

Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow is the latest public safety leader to announce retirement

Many Public Safety leaders have chosen to retire during pandemic
Police Chief Lori Luhnow
John Palminteri

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - When Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow announced she would retire on Feb. 13, 2021 she became one of many public safety leaders to make the decision this year.

Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney announced his retirement in November and sent a message about it on Facebook. He said he didn't have any unfinished business and thanked his friends and partners.

A few weeks later, Santa Maria Police Chief Phil Hanson announced his retirement. He said he chose to stay on the job longer during the recent civil unrest that put policing in the spotlight.

During the summer, San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell announced she would be leaving her post, but she isn't retiring, she announced she would be taking a job in Fairfield.

Atascadero Chief Jerel Haley announced his retirement plans in October. Haley said he made his decision months before, and plans to start a new career in Hawaii.

Arroyo Grande's Police Chief Beau Pryer retired in July.

And those are just the leaders from local police departments. Fire departments are losing leaders, too.

Santa Maria Fire Chief Leonard Champion's retirement begins on Thursday.

Cal Fire San Luis Obispo Fire Chief Scott Jalbert's last day was on Saturday.

Santa Barbara Fire's Operations Chief Lee Waldron retired a month ago.

All of these first responders have had lengthy careers.

It's not clear if their retirements are a coincidence, or due to something that makes the timing right.

What is clear is that communities will be doing more hiring in 2021.

Many have already appointed interim leaders.

Santa Barbara County's Assistant County Executive Officer for Public Safety Barney Melekian will serve as interim Santa Barbara Police Chief when Luhnow retired on Feb. 13.

Melekian served as Pasadena's police chief for more than a decade.

Chief Luhnow chose not to comment on camera about her decision or future plans, but other leaders acknowledged the retirement trend.

Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo said the chief has done a wonderful job.

"One of the first things the chief did when she was hired was conduct implicit bias training for all the officers. She has really worked hard on community policing, hiring local, hiring officers that speak Spanish, hiring women, It's been wonderful."

Murillo described Luhnow as a role model.

"I understand there are very few women police chiefs, so it has been a real source of pride for us. Pre-pandemic, when we were at events, I could see little girls, and teens, and young women very proud of having a female police chief."

Luhnow became Santa Barbara Police Chief in 2016. She has worked in law law enforcement for more than 3 decades.

Local Politics / Money and Business / Safe at Home / Safety / San Luis Obispo County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County / Ventura County
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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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