Top Cop Qualifications

Nick Welsh’s article about the police department serves as a reminder that Santa Barbara has begun selection of a new police chief. This will be a very important decision for the city’s future, particularly in the light of the national discussion about policing, the criminal justice system, incarceration, and racism.

Technically, the Santa Barbara city administrator has the responsibility to choose the police chief. The city has requested public comment on the decision, both on its website and in a public meeting. Because of the chief’s wide-ranging authority over the lives of Santa Barbara police officers and citizens, the City Council has important supervisory power in this recruitment process.

Here are factors that I think should be primary in hiring a new police chief:

  1. The next chief should have a reputation for personal honesty, integrity, and fairness among other police officers, judges, attorneys for both defendants and the prosecution, community leaders, and community activists.

  2. The next police chief should have deep experience in policing.

  3. The next police chief should have a reputation for wisdom on the job.

  4. The next police chief should have a demonstrated record of the ability to lead, build, and oversee a department the size and complexity of Santa Barbara’s.

  5. The next police chief should have a sensitivity to issues of fair process and procedure for all, clearly indicated by transparency to the public, even-handedness for all kinds of people, and reactions and responses to police calls commensurate with the actual situation rather than worst-case scenarios.

As a citizen, that is the least I ask for on the part of the city of Santa Barbara and the SBPD.


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