SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara police chief Lori Luhnow is retiring. She made the announcement in a press release issued Monday morning.
Luhnow has served in the position since 2016. She is the first woman to hold the position in the city's history.
Her retirement ends a 32-year career in law enforcement. Previously, she served as a captain with the San Diego Police Department.
“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.” said Luhnow.
Santa Barbara's chief of police oversees 200 sworn officers and civilian staff and a budget of $44 million, the city said.
“Chief Luhnow is a great source of pride for our city. She has made a tremendous contribution to creating a culture of community-focused policing through hiring, training, and policy," said Mayor Cathy Murillo. "I congratulate her on all her success in public service and wish her the best in the future.”
A nationwide search will begin to find her replacement. For the time being, Barney Melekian, Assistant County Executive Officer for the County of Santa Barbara, will serve as the interim chief. Melekian has 46 years of experience in law enforcement, including a stint as chief of the Pasadena Police Department and a previous role as undersheriff of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.
This is just the latest high-profile law enforcement vacancy in our area. Santa Maria's police chief announced his retirement in November and San Luis Obispo's police chief took a new position in Fairfield. Oxnard's chief of police will retire in December, Atascadero and Arroyo Grande police chiefs retired this past summer. Additionally, fire chiefs for Santa Maria, Santa Barbara and Cal Fire San Luis Obispo have also announced retirements in the last several weeks.
Luhnow's last day as chief is February 13, 2021.