After one year on the job, the honeymoon period between Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow and the City Council appears alive and well. After Luhnow’s first annual report, Councilmember Randy Rowse gushed that he’d never felt like giving a standing ovation for such a briefing before. The numbers were striking. Type I crime reports — violent and property — were both down 4 percent. The number of officers filing injury reports was down 43 percent from the year before, which Luhnow translated in terms of hours saved to the equivalent of 4.45 full-time officers.
Luhnow is trying to reengineer not just the configuration of the department’s organizational flowcharts but the culture itself. She spoke enthusiastically of efforts to build trust by community outreach and stressing a less “dominant” style. She said 10 new uniformed, nonsworn volunteers — including two UCSB professors, one a former prosecutor from New York — will soon take to the streets to act not just as greeters but eyes and ears as well. In addition, she said, she’s hired 15 new officers since taking command; more than that, she’s now promoted six new sergeants and one lieutenant. She described how the department will use data to study use-of-force trends and talked about a “force option simulator” that her officers can use to simulate high-stress “shoot or don’t shoot” scenarios.
There was no shortage of facts and figures. The department handled 132 calls for service a day and responded to 2,314 traffic collisions last year. The three new neighborhood “noise” cops deployed around City College and other high-party areas responded to 273 calls for service, issuing 184 verbal and 65 written warnings. Luhnow assigned two new officers on foot patrol on State Street, two cars, and a beat coordinator. She said her department has been analyzing data on the city’s “unsheltered” — particularly on State Street — and would have a report in two weeks. “We’re not going to solve homelessness by arresting people,” she said. “That much is clear.”
Luhnow said the department is working with Cottage Health on a grant to embed a mental-health professional with city officers. Since taking over, Luhnow has restored cuts made previously to the department’s Restorative Policing detail, which placed 52 individuals and reunited 28 with their families. Luhnow also unveiled a new chief’s advisory board, made up of 12 community members. These, she stressed, would be her eyes and ears, too, but their role would be advice, not oversight.