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Santa Monica’s First Female Police Chief Announces Retirement  

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By Jonathan Friedman
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May 8, 2017 -- Jacqueline Seabrooks, who in 1982 became the first black female patrol officer with the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) and 30 years later became the agency’s first woman chief, announced her retirement on Friday.

Seabrooks’ final day on the job will be September 30. The City says it will conduct a national search for her replacement and an interim chief will serve during that period.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks

“I am both pleased at and appreciative for the opportunity to have worked with our community, those in municipal administration and the men and women of the Santa Monica Police Department as we collectively made Santa Monica a safer place,” Seabrooks said in a press release that was issued Friday night.

She continued, “While I will miss all that is unique and wonderful about Santa Monica, I know the City and the Police Department are well prepared for this transition.”

Seabrooks’ career is one of many firsts.

When she began her policing career in 1982 she was the SMPD’s first black female patrol officer.

After 25 years with the SMPD, she took over the Inglewood Police Department as its first female chief, becoming the first black female ever to head one of California’s municipal police departments.

Seabrooks returned to Santa Monica in 2012, where she became the SMPD’s 17th police chief and the first woman to hold that position (“Santa Monica Taps First Woman to Head Police Force,” April 3, 2012).

“I guess it's an accomplishment in that it advances awareness of women in top civic positions,” Seabrooks told The Lookout in 2012 shortly after her hiring (“Meet Santa Monica’s New Chief,” July 17, 2012).

But she added that “in a few years, I don't even think gender will be part of the conversation,” noting that In Inglewood “I was known as the first black female police chief, then they dropped the black part.”

A little more than a year later Seabrooks had a major test when 23-year-old John Zawahri went on a shooting spree that began at his home on Yorkshire Avenue and ended on the Santa Monica College campus (“A Killing Spree Hits Home in Santa Monica,” June 10, 2013)

Six people were killed in the incident, including the gunman who died after a shootout with police in the campus library.

“Chief Seabrooks provided decisive and steady leadership in the aftermath,” the City press release announcing her retirement said.

Crime in general went down in Santa Monica under Seabrooks’ leadership (“Santa Monica’s 2014 Crime Rate Fell to Lowest Level in Decades,” February 24, 2015).

Although crime rates have been going down in most American cities in recent years, SMPD Sgt. Rudy Camarena told The Lookout in 2015 that “a significant component of the decline [in Santa Monica] can be attributed to the changes in the department since Seabrooks became chief.”

Her tenure has not been without controversy. Accusations of racial profiling by the department came up.

In November 2015 corporate executive Fay Wells wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying she had been swarmed by officers two months earlier after needing a locksmith to get into her home where she had accidentally been locked out.

Seabrooks responded that the department had acted appropriately to a reported burglary (“Santa Monica Police Chief Defends Officers Against New Claim of Racial Profiling,” November 20, 2015).

“As a black woman born and raised in South-Central Los Angeles, I empathize with Ms. Fay Wells and how this experience has made her feel,” Seabrooks said in a statement.

“On the other hand, as an experienced law enforcement executive, I understand the Police Department's response and the need for that response.”

Earlier that year Seabrooks had met with NAACP leaders and residents about concerns of racial profiling by police in Santa Monica (“Santa Monica Police Chief Responds to Residents’ Racial Profiling Complaints,”June 1, 2015).

Among the issues was one involving Justin Palmer, who had complained of excessive force when he was arrested at an electric car charging station in April 2015. A federal jury later sided with his claim (“Jury Awards $1.1 Million in Excessive Force Case Against Santa Monica Police,” September 7, 2016).

In another hot button issue, Seabrooks was steadfast that the City would not be involved in immigration enforcement.

She made that clear shortly after the presidential election of Donald Trump, who had made illegal immigration enforcement one of his major campaign issues (“Santa Monica to Continue Non-Enforcement of Immigration Laws, Police Chief Says,” December 2, 2016).

And although Santa Monica does not enforce immigration laws, it had some cooperation with federal authorities in certain situations. But even that recently ended (“Santa Monica Police Ends Agreement with Federal Immigration Authorities,” March 17, 2017).

City Manager Rick Cole said Seabrooks would “leave an indelible mark on the Santa Monica Police Department.”

He added, “We will miss her relentless focus on fighting crime, engaging our community and making our department a model of 21st century constitutional policing.”

And Mayor Ted Winterer called her “a person of great integrity who is widely respected in the community and nationally.”

“She has protected this city and upheld our values for three decades,” Winterer said. “And for that, we are grateful.”

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