Barney Melekian is not one for grand, sweeping statements, but he’s willing to make an exception about the mass upwelling of public outrage in the wake of the George Floyd killing. “We recognize it’s a pivotal moment in American history,” Melekian said.
Melekian, a law enforcement professional with 36 years of experience, now serves as Santa Barbara County’s executive officer in charge of public safety. Before that, Melekian functioned as Sherriff Bill Brown’s wonky and politically savvy undersheriff. But the “we” to whom Melekian referred is the National Police Foundation, for which he now serves as chair of the board.
Late last week, Melekian announced the foundation’s formation of a 17-person panel — scholars, criminologists, law enforcement professionals, and experts on mass incarceration — to study policing reforms and race. Most of the panelists, Melekian stressed, are African American. The purpose of the study, he said, is not to abolish or to defund the police so much as it is to reimagine the way policing is conducted so that it doesn’t give rise to such abiding distrust between Black communities and law enforcement.