SANTA BARBARA, CA – May 19, 2021
In January of 2021, the Santa Barbara Police Department created two new Officer positions designed specifically to focus on fostering collaboration between the Department and community organizations. These officers, known as Community Liaison Officers (CLO), work together with the public to address crime and disorder problems, especially those that impact our youth.
CLO Officers Heather Clark and Adrian Gutierrez have been developing relationships in the community while serving in this capacity.
One such relationship involves the Mobile Food Pantry at the Franklin Center. These services are offered every Thursday at 1pm. Officer Clark and Officer Gutierrez make it a point during their week to be available for questions and concerns that community members have at this event. The Officers are approached dozens of times while helping at the Food Banks’ mobile pantry to answer a variety of questions including those about traffic laws, parking issues within their neighborhoods, or inquiring how to file a police report. The Officers encourage and welcome the engagement. This type of non-enforcement interaction builds trust in neighborhoods where some may not have had the opportunity to interact with their local police officers.
Officer Heather Clark said, “We are dedicated to making the quality of life better for those that live within the City. We have the freedom in this position to spend time with community members and work on neighborhood issues that are important to keeping our City safe.”
The CLOs often visit the schools to foster positive relationships with youth and offer their experience and problem solve issues with school leadership. Other organizations the CLOs are involved with are the Police Activities League (PAL) and the South Coast Youth Safety Partnership. Saul Serrano, Partnership Coordinator, shared, “The SBPD Community Liaison Officers have been a great addition as partners to community-based organizations. Their role has added a missing link between youth serving programs and the law enforcement community.
Officers Clark and Gutierrez walk through parks and the State Street Prominade assisting tourists and helping store owners with problems they might be facing. Their presence can also be seen on Hendry’s beach providing a visible deterrent to crime in the area. One focus of the CLOs is to work on providing a more cohesive communication network between the Santa Barbara Police Department and the Spanish speaking community and assist those community members with questions and problem solve together to reduce crime with a long-term approach.
Officer Gutierrez stated, “Growing up and currently living in the neighborhood, I’ve learned partnerships with our local police department are very important and needed.”
The CLOs will continue to conduct outreach and partner with community groups and organizations, while emphasizing a multidisciplinary community approach to producing public safety. This new Community Liaison Officer position fosters new relationships and strengthen those existing ones within the City of Santa Barbara.