“The main goal is building a community, more of a tribe than a community, a group of people working together for the good of the group.” Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow said this as she addressed community members who came to a meet and greet event hosted by the Santa Barbara Youth Council on Monday, November 14. Throughout the evening, Luhnow answered questions and introduced the community to her views on improving policing in Santa Barbara.
Luhnow first addressed fears of mass deportations under president-elect Donald Trump. “I have a feeling our council members will fight really hard against these ordinances,” she said of potential federal laws to round up and remove undocumented immigrants. “We won’t work with federal enforcement.” City Councilmember Cathy Murillo said she’s planning to talk to schools about safety plans regarding their undocumented populations. Luhnow also said, “We will maintain current procedures. We don’t look at immigration status. Our focus is that everyone is safe.”
Luhnow also discussed the department’s staffing levels. “We are 20 officers down,” she said of the SBPD roster, explaining she’s looking into starting a new volunteer program. She described participants as ambassadors for the department. Luhnow talked about community building as well and said, “To help engage the youth, I want them to see our officers as humans.”
The next question asked was about the passage of Prop 64, which legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. “I’m scared about this one,” Luhnow said. Denver police saw a 60 percent increase in motor vehicle accidents after Colorado passed its own legalization law. It’s hard to regulate the potency of marijuana, said Luhnow, and there will inevitably be unintended consequences with overdoses and impaired driving, she said.
Lori was asked about how she feels being a female police chief. “Being a female is incidental,” she said, but hopes to serve as a role model. She also discussed how she feels about Santa Barbara as a community. “I have made some very positive connections,” she said. “It’s one of the few places I’ve seen where the community is there to support us without having to work at it.”
Editor’s Note: The story has been revised to correct the date of the event as well as the speakers.