Santa Barbara Police Chief Barney Melekian Receives National Leadership Award

Melekian Recognized for Leadership in Changing Law Enforcement Policies for Better

Barney Melekian | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Barney Melekian, Santa Barbara’s interim chief of police, has received a leadership award from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a nonprofit organization that specializes in research, policy organization, and executive-level education to support law enforcement agencies across the country.

Melekian was honored with the 2021 PERF Leadership Award Wednesday during the organization’s annual town hall, which coincides with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference, according to a statement by Santa Barbara Police Public Information Officer Ethan Ragsdale.

The award is presented each year to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of law enforcement over the course of their career, Ragsdale said, and those who “exemplify the highest principles and standards of a true leader in policing on a national level.“

PERF aims to improve police services by consulting with leadership and hearing public debate about police and criminal justice issues, and create policies based on research to apply across the country.

“The award recognizes innovators whose efforts serve as a model to the law enforcement community and whose vision of policing can be applied on a wide scale,” Ragsdale said.

Melekian, who was also awarded a medal of valor during his two decades working for the Santa Monica Police Department, accepted the award during the ceremony, and spoke about his time in law enforcement.

“I love this job, and I love the men and women who do it. In every jurisdiction where I have worked, including Santa Barbara, I find people who do this work with the noblest of intentions,” Melekian said. “What means the most to me about policing is that every day regardless of your rank or assignment, you get to come to work and make a difference in the lives of everybody with whom you come into contact.”

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Law Enforcement leaders from across the U.S. submitted nominations for the award, with former Tempe, Arizona, Police Chief Sylvia Moir and Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown nominating Melekian. 

During the ceremony, speakers highlighted Melekian’s accomplishments, including his military service and doctorate degree.

Melekian was selected by the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to head the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services Office in 2009, where Melekian created the Collaborative Reform Model — which provides assistance to law enforcement agencies based on community needs. This model helped foster more community engagement, crisis intervention, and focused deterrence from law enforcement agencies.

In 1996, as Pasadena’s police chief, Melekian made a change in a city that averaged 20 murders a year for decades when he implemented the “No More Dead Children” program. Under the program, which was also recognized by PERF, Pasadena had 30 consecutive months with zero homicides.

“Congratulations to Barney Melekian,” current PERF President and Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department Michael Harrison said. “His body of work has far transcended any one department. There was a unanimous decision of the PERF Board of Directors and without second thought, the most deserving person for this award was Barney Melekian.”

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