Santa Barbara City Police Chief Cam Sanchez announced Wednesday he will retire next February after 15 years at the helm. The longest-serving police chief in the state, Sanchez, who is 63, was in a serious car accident on southbound Highway 101 when a tire smashed into his windshield earlier this month. He suffered a concussion. He has been back to work on and off since then, and his recovery is expected to take a few weeks.
In his email, distributed by City Administrator Paul Casey, Sanchez said the incident shed light on how short and precious life is. “I want to enjoy it to the fullest,” he said.
On October 13, Sanchez expressed frustration during a Santa Barbara City Council meeting after claims were made department-wide that morale was low. He told councilmembers the police station was in poor condition and lacked parking for staff. He is 19 officers short, and his existing officers are stretched thin. “I have no more room for negativity in my department,” he said at the council last week. “I’m tired of it.”
Earlier this month, the Police Officers Association (POA) mentioned such frustrations in a mailer sent out to city voters, expressing annoyance about officer retention and recruitment problems at a time when the public perception of law enforcement is noticeably low nationwide. The association has not endorsed a City Council candidate in next month’s election.
Sanchez worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for 20 years before taking over SBPD. In the email, Sanchez said, “SBPD is awesome, and working for this great city has been fantastic, and I have no regrets about my career … I have been thinking about this for quite a while, but the time is right now. My inspiration has been my wife Olivia from day 1 in this fabulous career, and she has earned it as well.”