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Police Chief Lori Luhnow: "We're Adapting Hour by Hour" -- How Pandemic is Changing SBPD Operations

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Around 5 a.m. most days, Police Chief Lori Luhnow hauls an old set of weights out of her garage onto her driveway, then pumps iron to get ready for another unpredictable day on the job.

For the 54-year old Luhnow, a serious college jock who played on three national championship volleyball teams at UC San Diego, the pre-dawn sessions substitute for her favored CrossFit workouts, now scrubbed with the Covid closure of her local gym.

"It's gotten me back to that old school, garage gym kind of workout," she said. "I had a bunch of equipment stacked in the back of the garage...I have a great driveway and I pull the equipment out and it's gritty and it's dirty (and) so I'm super happy first thing in the morning."

In an interview with Newsmakers, the chief's reveal about her start-the-day routine offered one small glimpse at the countless changes which the coronavirus has forced -- both in the personal and the professional lives of the 200-plus members of the Santa Barbara Police Department charged with serving and protecting the community.

"The world is learning as we go," Luhnow said. "We're used to gathering intelligence, getting information and making decisions based on that, and this is one where we're just kinda flying by the seat of our pants and adapting hour by hour."

In the interview, the chief described a series of adaptations in operations, policies and procedures the department has made in conformance with the public health emergency: from the displacement of the dispatch office, the staggering of schedules and relocation of shift briefings to the outdoor garage where she used to park her car; to new general orders for interacting with the homeless, coordinating with other departments to monitor beaches and providing Personal Protective Equipment for officers on patrol.

"I'll tell you how my (work) day starts," she said. "I dip my shoes in a bleach bath before I walk into the building. I have to have my mask on at all times...I'm supposed to maintain that social distancing, I do a self assessment right when I go into that front door, with a temperature check to make sure I don't have a fever and there's several (medical) questions I self-answer...It's taken very seriously."

One thing that has not changed, however, is the way officers respond to crimes in progress, violent or "tactical situations," the chief added.

"If they're responding to a violent situation and somebody, for example, comes up and attacks them, I don't want them thinking about going to their mask first," she said. "They have their self-protection tools that probably (are) going to be a priority before their mask.

"We're still getting out of our cars, we're still contacting people, we're still arresting them" Luhnow said.

The interview with the chief is the latest in our series of conversations with community leaders about how they are responding to the Covid crisis.

Watch the full interview by clicking below. The podcast version is here.


Image: Paul Wellman (SB Independent).

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