Santa Barbara residents will be asked to weigh in on what they’re looking for in a new police chief at a public hearing scheduled for January 7, 2016, at the Louise Lowry Davis Center by Chapala and Victoria streets.
Santa Barbara’s longtime chief, Cam Sanchez, announced in October he would retire in February, capping a 35-year career in law enforcement and 15 years as Santa Barbara’s chief. Supporters extol Sanchez’s commitment to community-oriented policy; critics complain morale among the troops tanked under his tenure, leading to recruitment and retention issues. Regardless, he’d served longer than any of his predecessors, and interest had grown in many political camps in finding someone new. Sanchez used the occasion of a scary car accident — in which a truck wheel flew into his windshield — to announce his departure.
Ultimately, the choice of new chief rests with City Administrator Paul Casey, now entering his second year in City Hall’s top spot. Prior to Sanchez’s hiring, City Hall enlisted many in the community to serve on screening committees to meet with potential candidates for the job. Casey said interest in serving on such a committee is intense, reporting he’s already heard from more individuals than there are committee posts. Casey said he expects the new chief to be hired by sometime this spring, possibly May. Because Sanchez is stepping down in February, Casey will have to appoint an interim chief to run the department for a few months.
City Hall hired the professional headhunting firm of Bob Murray & Associates, which specializes in recruiting top law enforcement executives. Murray will be paid about $25,000. Not only will Murray run the January 7 meeting, but the company will maintain a website where members of the public can fill out surveys about what kind of chief they want.