In this episode, we chat with Dr. Barney Melekian, current Chief of the Santa Barbara Police Department in California. Barney is a lifelong public servant having worked for the Santa Monica Police Department, Chief of the Pasadena Police, Director of the COPS Office for the U.S. Department of Justice, the undersheriff of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.
A veteran of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard, he was deployed to the Middle East during the Gulf Wars.
In an interesting discussion, we talked about the state of policing, the hopefulness for improvement, the importance of community relationships, and the future.
[00:00:02.550] - Intro
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas The CopDoc Podcast thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing, communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:00:31.890] - Steve Morreale
Well, here we are again. Hello, everybody. Steve Morreale from Boston. And this is The CopDoc Podcast. We have a bi-coastal discussion going on. I have the pleasure, the honor to talk with Barney Malakian, who is a person who has been in a life of public service. Barney, good morning.
[00:00:47.440] - Barney Melekian
[00:00:47.920] - Steve Morreale
Thank you so much for joining. So now you're at Santa Barbara. You have made the rounds. I did a little bit of research on what you did, military, Army Coast Guard.
[00:00:58.590] - Steve Morreale
You were serving in police departments in California. I see. Correct me when I'm missing Santa Monica chief in Pasadena for many years, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's as the undersheriff and now the interim at a beautiful city, Santa Barbara. What the hell is wrong with you? So you've been an interim here and there. It's funny. It seems like you come and you go, you leave and you get itchy and you think, I think I want to go back. What's going on now?
[00:01:22.680] - Barney Melekian
You know, actually, I was with Santa Monica Police Department where I started my career there for twenty-three years. For 13 years, I had the privilege of going to DOJ, as director for almost four years. And my wife and I thought I was going to retire, but I didn't do a very good job of what we came to Santa Barbara. We always wanted to be here, love the place. And I I got a call from the sheriff one day asking if I would consider being a I was going through some personal issues and wanted to do some leadership development.
[00:01:58.110] - Barney Melekian
I thought about it and I said I would be honored. And I did that for almost four years. I had a pretty significant knee injury. And so I stepped down from there. And it was time anyway, I'm well aware of the year I pull out my driver's license periodically and look at the year of my birth, your reality check, but then the counties that will come oversee public safety projects. So I that had every intention of retiring June when she announced she would back in December that she was going to retire.
[00:02:31.170] - Barney Melekian
And I agreed to serve in the interim until we pick a new permanent police chief. I'm honored to do the work. I would not I would probably not agree to serve as an interim chief anywhere except the city that I live in. I will be here after I'm done with this. I'm just honored and never thought I would be sort of active in the field this long, but I feel very privileged to be doing well.
[00:02:52.830] - Steve Morreale
My guess is and you know, I've had a very long career myself, not as long as you I think what draws us is the desire to serve. But you must love cops.
[00:03:01.770] - Barney Melekian
I absolutely do. And I was one of the hardest things for me last summer when I was sitting over in the county office, not operational, non-sworn job. I was watching the discussion about policing in America somehow more to an attack on individual officers in a way that I've never seen in my almost fifty years of doing this. And I just it just drove me crazy to not be able to do something, because I think we can talk about changing systems.
[00:03:32.910] - Barney Melekian
We can talk about what should police respond to all those things. But as you know, our profession is populated by extraordinarily good people and they're being tarnished by the actions of a reprehensible you.
[00:03:45.480] - Steve Morreale
It's interesting to watch you from afar and to see you have the passion that you have and the willingness at the craziest time and policing to come back and help to lead and guide a police agency is inspirational. And to itself, I applaud you. I have to say that you crazy guy that you are - went back to school and you sought your doctorate, talk about that. What the hell were you thinking?
[00:04:08.460] - Barney Melekian
Apparently not. I've done my entire academic education installment plan, and I. I took ten years to get a bachelor's degree, eight years to get for ten years. My original motivation was pretty straight forward. It occurred to me that there were a lot of at some point I knew I was going higher. I think I would be going out like you. And I said, you know, there's a lot of retired police teams out there, but there's not that many with doctorates.
[00:04:37.230] - Barney Melekian
I should probably pursue that. The school has always been kind of a hobby for me. So I applied for the program and they allow University of Southern California allows you eight years like the program and I use every minute. So I have I do on the installment plan all along. I did my dissertation on values based discipline systems, I think. It's turned out to be pretty tight.
[00:05:02.280] - Steve Morreale
It's interesting because I think when I met you in our conversation, you started to leak out that you were going to school. And at that point in time, I think I was either leaving DEA or had just started as an academic. And so it was interesting to watch what you were doing and understanding of the difficulty. But the hard work of doing a dissertation and doing it in the discipline that, you know, is rewarding unto itself. So congratulations on that.
[00:05:25.380] - Steve Morreale
Not only Chief, but Dr. Malakian. Let's talk about a few things, if I can. You've walked in and out of police agencies. You walked into the DOJ with the cops office. And obviously when you walk in, you take a look you to a pulse check. I'm sure you do some listening and some learning about the organization. And still, instead of coming in and dictating your mandates, what are the things that you look at when you assess the police department?
[00:05:48.420] - Barney Melekian
And by the way, I know that you've walked in and done police management studies. What are the things that you look at? What are the things that you want to know before in order to make some decisions and make some refinements?
[00:05:59.370] - Barney Melekian
You know, I think two of the things I mean, there's a whole laundry list of sort of bullet points. I think two of the biggest things, particularly among the leadership ranks, is, is there a discussion, an awareness, a vision in the future? Somebody asked Wayne Gretzky, why are you such a great hockey player? He said, because I know where the park is going. And I look to see, are the discussions in the leadership group, are they tactical and are they now or is there a reflection that we know we're going someplace else?
[00:06:29.280] - Barney Melekian
Secondly, is is in talking to the rank and file and I try not to talk about them too much to tell them who I am and sort of what I'm about, see what there are. The question is, what I look for is, are there questions that they ask? Are they reflective of wanting to make the organization better? Are they reflective of wanting things to be better for them? And that's a sometimes subtle distinction, but it tells me where the organization is and given time.
[00:06:58.380] - Steve Morreale
I'm stopping because I was just looking down. But it seems to me I talked to to a chief of Minneapolis chief the last couple of days. And one of the things that struck me was that who he was trying to hire and his group, he was pushing his group towards hiring people with a service orientation and was talking about customer service, which unto itself is foreign. And a lot of ways, except I don't think it is because we are a service organization.
[00:07:17.610] - Steve Morreale
But I really like what you just said, listening to what is being said and then and then analyzing what's being said. Are you here for you? Are you here to make the town, the city county better? In other words, and I often talk this way about about it with faculty members and. Well, wait a minute. Is what I'm hearing what you need or what the students need? What's the focus? Because aren't we here for the students?
[00:07:39.930] - Steve Morreale
You're shaking your head. Nobody else can see you, but I can. So what's your reaction to that?
[00:07:44.010] - Barney Melekian
No, I think it's absolutely critical. I'm thinking about Lao Tzu and the doubt. Jenkins says when the master teaches the students as we did it ourselves, probably one of the things I'm proudest of when I was the capacity police department was that no more that children program was used, which was a homicide reduction, which was very successful, and it was modeled on the Boston Police Department and the work they did with the ten point plan. Yes, but at the end of the day, that program was and there were people when I asked, I said our number one goal is no more dead children on the streets of Boston because we had a ridiculous homicide rate for a city of forty thousand people and a lot of victims and kids.
[00:08:23.220] - Barney Melekian
There were people who told me I shouldn't have said that because it couldn't be done. I said, well, it can. But the truth of the matter is, it's done by the work of the men and women who drive the radio cars, investigate cases, dispatch calls against the outrage. They do the real work. And I've said it in a couple of different organizations and sometimes people don't like it. I said, you know, I don't do it.
[00:08:44.790] - Barney Melekian
I'll say it demands that. I said, we don't do the real we don't do real real work is done by these people out here. We make it possible. We say this is the direction we'd like you to go and we make possible. That's I'll close with this. One of my heroes in life is Dr. Steven Sample, president of U.S. Leadership. And in that book, he was talking about being a university president. But it applies to a lot of things.
[00:09:08.930] - Barney Melekian
He said many people want to be president. He said very few people want to do present. And I think to that end, I think this notion of are you serving something greater than yourself? That's why we all got business first, because we want to mean whether it was the spirit of adventure, spirit, service or whatever it was. We wanted to serve something bigger than ourselves. And if we're not careful and as leaders, if we're not careful, people can forget that gets lost in the day to day, but we get to remind them of it.
[00:09:39.420] - Steve Morreale
Well, that's interesting. Yesterday I did a training, as I hate to use the training, but I facilitated discussion with the police department in my hometown. And one of the questions I asked, why did you become a police officer in the first place and where did you lose your way? And what's really important, what about people? How many of you have made a friend for the agency? And you know what? covid be damned that excuse. It was a struggle getting.
[00:09:59.950] - Steve Morreale
Through covid, there's no question about that, and we're still clinging to sort of the vestiges of of covid, but we're coming out of it. And I think part of what you would be talking to Santa Barbara is, OK, that's over. Let's get back to business. And Barny, one of the things that I said, and I'd like to hear your perspective, I want to talk a little bit about leadership development, but it seems to me the sergeant on the street and those officers are the people who get the work done, exactly what you said a moment ago.
[00:10:24.820] - Steve Morreale
But what strikes me, too, and when I say it, many people don't realize it. When you and I raised our hand the first time and swore an oath to become an officer, I'd say 90 to 95 percent of the people who did that with us are going to start as officers and end as officers that not many of them move on to take on the responsibility of other people. So how do we keep them motivated when they're doing the same job for 20 or 30 years?
[00:10:50.440] - Steve Morreale
What do you think?
[00:10:51.180] - Barney Melekian
That's interesting you brought that up. A few times in my career I've been rendered speechless. And one of them was I came back from school as a brand new sergeant and I was very pumped up with all the stuff that I learned. I'm talking to this officer who's been on the graveyard shift for 30 years. And you've met him? We've met him a hundred times.
[00:11:10.320] - Steve Morreale
[00:11:11.090] - Barney Melekian
Yes. And I've given him this whole speech about mentoring young troops and informal leadership and all that stuff. And he finally actually, when the sergeant said, you know, I really like you said, you know what my operating philosophy is? I said, no, I can't say that I do. And he said, if the minimum wasn't good enough, it wouldn't be the man. And and I really didn't know how to respond. But in thinking about it later, I realized it's true.
[00:11:41.710] - Barney Melekian
That's the bottom line of civil service protection, whether you're in policing or not, is that that statement is true. And so then our responsibility as the leaders, I think, is to help people raise their own bar about what constitutes them, because otherwise they can simply go on and hide out. Secondly, and I don't think it's as true today, but certainly when I suspect when the people who had been promoted ahead of us did so with the almost usually unspoken belief that they had been promoted because they were better off than their peers were.
[00:12:16.300] - Barney Melekian
And in some cases that may be true of some other cases, maybe it's better to take tests were better. But regardless, I think today we've sort of moved to a direction servant leadership, that kind of thing. I'm glad to see it. I think for a long time we looked at that 30 year old program as if he was less because he or she had chosen simply to be an officer. I do think that one of the challenges that we're facing right now in the profession is because of scandals and because of different changing sort of family orientations and family values, expectations about work, life balance and things.
[00:12:51.950] - Barney Melekian
I'm saying a lot of people don't take promotional tests for very pragmatic, personal reasons. They get into a schedule that they like. They get a the job they like, it's comfortable. It works for them and their family and they don't promote. And I think we're going to have to figure out how to deal with that.
[00:13:06.580] - Steve Morreale
There's so many things that I'd love to chat with you about in time as time is all we have and have control over. But January 6th, what were your feelings when you saw what you saw on television? How did it change America?
[00:13:17.830] - Barney Melekian
I'm not embarrassed to say that I stood in my living room and watched, cried. I could cry today. I thought it was an assault on American democracy. It was a reflection of frustration. It was a reflection of the cultural and political divide that exists in this country. And if we're honest about it, the institutions of this country have been under attack now for several years, regardless of what you think about a particular president. And over the course of a few hundred plus years, we've had several, but not great at best.
[00:13:50.530] - Barney Melekian
But it became somehow became fashionable to attack the president of the United States. It became it became fashionable to crucify candidates in the US Supreme Court, became fashionable to burn the flag. All those things said to me January 6th was just the culmination of that. And it's not about it's not about which side of the political spectrum you're on. But that building stands as a symbol of the United States and of the greatest democracy in the world has ever seen.
[00:14:18.280] - Barney Melekian
I'm sorry to be giving a sermon, but it just stunned me and what stuns me almost as much is the attempt over the last few months as I listen to this broadcast, I think that is something other than what it was.
[00:14:29.830] - Steve Morreale
Yeah. I suppose those part of you wants to go and help. The other part says, what would I do if I was in that situation, if I was running? And so I'm glad that it has settled down. I think the response was way too slow for the officers that were calling for help. And that's unfortunate. And I know that as a leader yourself, you would say, OK, well, what can we learn from that? If this you know, if the proverbial shit hits the fan, how are we going to react?
[00:14:51.550] - Steve Morreale
Are we going to send people for help once to call for help comes out? Let's talk about leadership, your rise in leadership, your view of leadership, but more importantly. Yours, how do you drive that through the organization? You walk into an organization and really, again, I think we could use the same premise, and that is it's not about you anymore, Barney. It's about the people and it's about getting them ready to sustain the organization no matter the organization.
[00:15:13.920] - Steve Morreale
Now, how do you do that as you're sitting in meetings? You know, you walk into the Santa Barbara Police Department, you knew the chief. You were working as a county law enforcement officer. But did you know all of the people? No, I did not. So you had to get to know them. Talk about that. How you do that. What was your approach, if you don't mind?
[00:15:29.600] - Barney Melekian
One of the things that I did and fortunately was, is that I was able to do this, but it was about a two month window between when it was announced that I was going to do this job. And when I start and so one of the things I did was I reached out to every lieutenant in civilian manager in the department and the captains and basically have them to my house for one on one when I'm not I'm not that person. You know, I'm not I have no official responsibility just to get them, just to get to know them issues and their take on.
[00:16:01.670] - Barney Melekian
Secondly, when I when I came into the building, I made it very clear from minute one that I was part of. I think the common vision of an interim chief is that while they sit back side of the things they need to side talk with it or talk to the city council, you're babysitting, right? Yeah.
[00:16:19.850] - Barney Melekian
And I made it very clear I had no intention of doing as it turned out, as it has turned out, I haven't had that luxury anyway. It's never been an option for variety of reasons. But I think the biggest thing is, is to continually ask people their opinions and never I know a great deal about police. I know far less about the nuances of the Santa Barbara Police Department. And I don't listen to them and get their opinions and see how they answer the question, why do we do this?
[00:16:47.250] - Barney Melekian
Why do you recommend? And I think what it's not at least I hope what it's done is to promote a recognition that this person is here. And if we help them, we are helping the organization. We are helping set up the organization for long term success and we're helping ourselves at the same time. Well, I'm not sure if I answered your question.
[00:17:08.270] - Steve Morreale
You did. And one of the things you did and if you see the book I'm holding up leading these questions. Right? I mean, I think that's exactly I think that's exactly this is one of my favorite books. It's called Leading with Questions, Mike Marquart. But very often it's something I'm sure that you do regularly, Barney, and that is to ask questions. Why what how come have we thought about a different way? Is there another opportunity? Who's missing at the table?
[00:17:28.340] - Steve Morreale
It's those kinds of questions that I'm sure you have asked. However, it came into your M.O. I mean, I think that's important. I've asked questions. I remember talking to your colleague, Jim McDonnell and many others when I did some Decision-Making questions with some major city chiefs and I asked, how do you make decisions? How did you learn to lead? Where did it come from? And let's talk about that. You know, let's talk about your personal development from the military into policing and then how that carries into how you're suggesting that other people develop their leadership mindset in question.
[00:17:59.570] - Barney Melekian
I didn't think when I look when I look back on how that happened, I think there was a transformation. The place was around 40. People have asked me that. I have a plan. You know, I have some sort of career I never planned. I, I just kind of was. Oh, that looks that looks like a good thing to do. I'll do that. But I served three years in the army. I was.
[00:18:19.280] - Steve Morreale
Me too. Good. Good one. Good one. Thank you for your service. I salute you sir.
[00:18:22.520] - Barney Melekian
And then I was working at a bank and I didn't particularly like that.
[00:18:26.450] - Steve Morreale
Can I interrupt you, Barney? My first job was as a bank teller and when I realized what I what little they were paying me and how much some big shots were getting paid, I thought, I can't do this anymore. It might be the same thing.
[00:18:37.850] - Barney Melekian
Well, maybe so, because I then saw basically an ad or for law enforcement, I thought it was like being a lawyer. But I'll do this for two or three years, then I'll go to law school. I didn't count on falling in love with the profession because I absolutely did. And about ten years later, I did apply to law school. I got accepted and I fortunately clocked a fairly big time lawyer in L.A. about it. And he talked to me for a while.
[00:19:03.680] - Barney Melekian
He said, You really love what you do. And I said, well, you should ask yourself what you think you're going to practice. Love practicing the law as much. And I thought about it and decided not to ask, which I've never regretted. I essentially enjoyed the work. I enjoyed being a police officer. I never really thought about the future or even really in retrospect. I did recognize I didn't recognize that. I recognized that one of the great things about this job is that you make a difference in the lives of your contact.
[00:19:34.310] - Barney Melekian
And if you promote within your organization and you're starting your tenant, you can make a difference in the lives of work. I didn't fully appreciate that, but in looking back, I was doing. But I think the defining moment for me was always said. I think I was an excellent start and I think I was a terrible intent for the whole bunch of reason we can go into it. But fortunately, I hadn't been a lieutenant very long when the I had in the interim, I had.
[00:19:59.860] - Barney Melekian
The US Coast Guard Reserver, who allowed me to drive their boat and spend one weekend a month on the ocean off Southern California and working a great bunch of people, and I was really enjoying that. And in truth, it was kind of like a hobby until December of nineteen ninety one when they said, I guess what, we're going to send you to Saudi Arabia and there's only three hundred Coast Guard people going to Saudi Arabia and you're going to be one of them.
[00:20:27.140] - Steve Morreale
[00:20:27.500] - Barney Melekian
So off I went and suddenly I went from being a lieutenant of police where people spend it with my due at that time an E-5 in a combat zone where nobody really cared what my opinion was. And that was a very transformative period, because I think that up until that point, in terms of leadership, I have been sort of mimicking things. But when I was in Saudi Arabia, I think I and a few other people, most of whom were police officers, which was not an exception, whose rank was not particularly high.
[00:20:59.510] - Barney Melekian
But we became informal leaders in a lot of ways. And it really struck me that rank had less to do with leadership than what you were bringing in rank. This helped you do that. And I came back. I know that I came back from Saudi Arabia, a very different person than I was when I left in a very different leader. And I think I was a lot more serious about what I was trying to do at that point.
[00:21:21.950] - Steve Morreale
What you're saying is what we've heard over and over again is leadership is a process, not a position. It's not the stripes on your sleeve. It's not the bars on your on your lapel, but it is the process. And let's talk about that for a moment. Just wrote, what are the elements and that what is the process of leading? So when you walk into this new organization, you've got tremendous experience in all kinds of ways. And people are looking to you.
[00:21:45.350] - Steve Morreale
You've got you've got you've got silver hair, which which distinguishes you. But it's the background that you have. And what are the conversations you're having with command staff to help them through this crisis period of time? We're going through where police are disdain there, blasphemed and yet focus on the job that we have to do no matter what, no matter what they're saying about us. In other words, how do we police through the noise?
[00:22:09.230] - Barney Melekian
A couple of things about that. One is, is that I think that we have to acknowledge that the things that certain elements in the public are angry about are legitimate. They're not born and people didn't make them up. It's not part of some grand conspiracy. The the issues of historic quality prejudice. When I came to pass up, everybody thinks Barceloneta is two square miles of mansions and once a year at most parades. Yes. The reality is that it's the fourth biggest city in L.A. County.
[00:22:39.080] - Barney Melekian
It's a majority minority city and it's home to the oldest black community in racial politics. Were alive and well. There are people in Pasadena who remember when they could not swim in the municipal court. So there are people who remember when they could not lock e salvaging after dark. And you'll never find those rules written down and you won't find them in a municipal code or a council resolution. But if we're honest, we know that the police were involved in making sure that those things were.
[00:23:07.940] - Barney Melekian
Of course, now we have smart people in my generation, your generation, we've spent 40 years trying to overcome that. But the anger is coming from all over the place. Secondly, in terms of reminding everybody else what our mission is, it is to remind people of what we do. I think you're seeing examples all over the United States in places that tried to defund the police or do some limit what they can do. And they're paying a price because ninety nine point nine percent of the officers in this country go to work every day.
[00:23:36.800] - Barney Melekian
There's a great book that just came out and we read it all tangled up in Blue by Rose.
[00:23:41.390] - Steve Morreale
Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes.
[00:23:42.710] - Barney Melekian
I think it's extraordinary. I think the point that she makes and I'll try to condense it in the interest of time, the officers, their officers for the most part, deal with the things that are put in front of them, the way that those things are put in front of them. And somebody calls the police to help and the dispatcher sends a police officer trying to solve the problem. That's an oversimplified term. That's the way it is. The officers are not making race racially based decisions.
[00:24:11.060] - Barney Melekian
For the most part, there may be some they're not making. But what the officers have to, I think, be more aware of and probably aren't is that very often, for example, particularly high crime or high poverty neighborhoods, especially if there are minority neighborhoods, those neighborhoods came into existence. People talk about systemic racism in those neighborhoods exist for a reason. They were created. And so the officers are part of the solution, are not credible.
[00:24:37.550] - Barney Melekian
They didn't cause the problem, but they're tasked with being part of the solution. And so besides asking the questions that the new command staff and the officers, I try to continually drive home this message about why is the environment that we're in, why is it look like this? And tactically speaking, how do you take some steps to remind locally elected officials that when we get done having havingness twenty thousand foot conversation about policing in America, let's have a five hundred foot conversation about policing in this town, this place, this time localize it.
[00:25:08.690] - Steve Morreale
What does it mean here? What do we want here? Well, that's interesting, too, because as a police chief, I'm sure we should not be telling our customers how they will be policed, but asking them what they need. And in a lot of ways, I think you do the same thing internally. What do you need to do the job and what do you want from us? You're shaking your head. So obviously that's resonating with what comes to mind.
[00:25:29.000] - Barney Melekian
I think one of the I think there's no question that and covid, you're absolutely right. It's come out of hope that we can get back to normal. But it does present an opportunity to decide what going back to normal, actually. And this is going to be a little bit controversial, I think. But I have been gone over the last decade or so to really question the manner in which random patrol is carried. I think I think it produces unspoken pressure on individual officers to do something.
[00:25:59.240] - Barney Melekian
They get measured by how many people did you stop, how many tickets you write, how many people feel as though there's this pressure to deliver something measurable. And I would argue that patrol needs to move to how built the problem oriented focus that they deal with specific and real neighborhood problems and that the metrics by which we measure for officers changes to things like a number of not enforcement contact minutes or hours spent on neighborhood or park checks, or you could vary from place to place.
[00:26:31.370] - Barney Melekian
But I think we have to change the nature of random patrol because the when I was at the cop's office, you know, that there is actually everybody knew that the definition of community policing was build relationships and solve problem. But whatever it is is actually a third part. But we always whispered the third one. It was build relationships, solve problems and transform waste and transform the police. I heard you. Yeah, yeah. Because because we like to talk about that part.
[00:27:00.140] - Barney Melekian
But it does. Because if you can create an environment where where the individual officers are building relationships, people and actually get to do something constructive, that they see the results. Michael Neila from the Blue Courage Foundation is one of my heroes in this business, says the greatest danger, corruption in the 21st century is Joseph Wambaugh in his book The News Carrying 50, 60 Years.
[00:27:23.940] - Speaker 2
I remember reading that a long time ago.
[00:27:25.820] - Speaker 3
Yes, the greatest danger to police officers is not a criminals bullet or a speeding car. So it was a daily drop of corrosion. So, yeah, we all talk about the fact that officers see the worst part of it, set that up. And if we can if we can shift that patrol focus to problem solving where the officers are directly involved in making things better, I think we read that sense of purpose.
[00:27:48.590] - Steve Morreale
Well, again, yesterday, one of the thank you for saying that, because yesterday I talked about how do you how do you document going in shaking hands and talking and being available and stopping and showing up on the sidelines of a youth soccer game or youth baseball game and humanize the person in uniform. But how do you capture that? And we don't measure we measure output, not outcomes. And you know very well that you started to talk about the importance of measuring outcomes, which is another way of saying solve the problems, identify the problems, and then work to solve them.
[00:28:20.850] - Barney Melekian
Yeah, I think it's in the UK, one of my consulting projects when I was doing that with the L.A. Sheriff's Transit Police and I was contrasting how American policing polices transit versus how it's done in the UK. In the U.K. They have this concept of felt present. And the most simplistic example is that in America, officers will walk into a train car, two of them together, and they will walk through the car. And in the UK, the officers will enter the train car from either by themselves.
[00:28:54.620] - Barney Melekian
They may or may not walk or the car or they may simply be there, look around, see what's going on and step off the car. And the term that they use and I really like it, is that people know that they're there. But there's it isn't particularly terms. They're just there and it's it's comforting. And then they re going to ask a lot, as you know, a lot of jokes about the dark green light for fires and everybody loves the fires or nobody loves the cops.
[00:29:21.200] - Barney Melekian
And the great mystery is why I think I have the answer. People love the fire department for two reasons. One is the fire department only involves themselves in your life when you ask them, they only come when they're called. And secondly, the things that they come for, the things that they involve themselves in your life with are things that you generally agree are a problem. If your house is on fire, you agree that's a problem. If you're having a heart attack, you agree that's a problem.
[00:29:46.740] - Barney Melekian
If somebody dumps hazardous material on the street, burn your house, you'll agree that's a problem. There's no point in policing what we do and some of it can't be avoided is we very often involve ourselves in your life whether you want to do or not. Your neighbor called either Resor, you're doing something or your neighbors are calling. So out we come. And it may or may not be important. Your neighbor may or certainly may not be important talking to you, the whole difference in philosophy, but that whole felt presence, peace, the whole whole notion of how we do this work think deserves more study.
[00:30:21.830] - Steve Morreale
I think another word that we use a lot, I don't think it's it's certainly not the same. But visibility. No, we don't want somebody set out. You don't have snowstorm's where you are. But when there'd be a snowstorm here, you say park your vehicle in a place where people can see you and don't go anywhere unless there's something to go to. You know, you just said something. What I think police get sucked into police officers and calls is one of the things that comes to my attention, and probably yours, too, is racism by proxy, where somebody says, hey, I see a black man outside my house and they don't look like they belong there.
[00:30:51.140] - Steve Morreale
And then the poor police have to show up and they're just responding to a call. And so that's a problem. And for police to understand that they can be sucked into this this racial issue so that they don't and they handle it the right way. I think what I want to ask you, Barney, about that and others ask, where are the teachable moments and how do we use teachable moments like that so that we don't repeat the same mistakes over and over again?
[00:31:13.280] - Barney Melekian
You know, that's a perfect example of the conundrum it's created because it is isn't a and says it was personal and there's a black person on my street or in front of my house. They don't belong. And I think, first of all, one thing is I think that one area of the criminal justice system that is incredibly overlooked and neglected is communications in this at least every place I've ever worked, the ratio is generally seven to one. In terms of the number of times that dispatcher will answer the phone versus number of times that calls will get an officer will actually get this.
[00:31:47.310] - Barney Melekian
But we don't. And much like police officers are dispatcher. We're extraordinarily good. And I want to, but maybe less about dealing with some of the things. And to use this example, the question would be, what is the person doing? We have to we have to develop a script. Dispatch asks, what is this person doing? Why are they suspicious? And you and I both know that most people don't want to say, well, they're just black and we don't have any black people living on the street.
[00:32:13.820] - Steve Morreale
[00:32:14.780] - Barney Melekian
They don't want to say that. But but that's really what they're concerned. So you pin them down a little bit on that. And then secondly, when you dispatch the call, generally that call that you described will go out as a suspicious person or something similar that that leaves that up on the officer's mind. I was on the national task force back about twenty years ago on mental health and criminal justice. And one of the things that they talked about was the role that dispatch played in amping up patrol officers anxiety, by the way, they dispatch all by the way, they describe what the person's actions.
[00:32:48.080] - Barney Melekian
There was a whole emphasis on calming that down. Well, you could do the same thing you could say quite directly versus going about a person on the street. And maybe we make a decision that we're going to drive down that street, but we're not going to stop that person or we are going to stop that person. We may get an introduction as opposed. I'm just talking off the head. That's because I understand the dilemma that the patrol officers I don't know that I know what the answer is, but it doesn't have to be as direct as a person.
[00:33:15.830] - Barney Melekian
A police person doesn't belong here that gets this bad, suspicious person with virtually no other information. And the officer then left to be the one to sort it out. And I would argue that a lot of that sort of take place on the beforehand and may not yield. Karlo? Well, you're right. I think part of the things we begin to think about or talk about with new officers or other officers is you have the authority. Do you always have to use that authority?
[00:33:40.100] - Steve Morreale
Can it be curiosity? Can it be a bit friendly or can it be those kinds of things as simplified as I said it before, when's the last time you may have had these conversations with your people? When's the last time you made a friend for the police department? We don't need any more enemies, and I think that's a pretty important thing. Let me ask you this. In terms of this interview, your perspective of what we've been able to talk about and how important these things are for people who are both inside and outside to understand the mind, the mindset that you bring to the job and how you try to guide the.
[00:34:10.550] - Steve Morreale
Thoughts and the practices of people who are in this job, I've always I've said for a long time, I give you the history of the truth or falsity, the Constitution and all of the things that we talk about and all the values we say that we hold. For many people in many neighborhoods, the truth or falsity of those values are confirmed or denied by the individual police officer and the actions their actions are so incredibly important. Some years ago, I actually invited Eldridge Cleaver to speak to the police department when I was a very young labor is on the FBI's most wanted list.
[00:34:43.910] - Barney Melekian
I was looking at Eldridge Cleaver on the beaches of Santa Monica. I did not realize that you've already and he was there for me to find him.
[00:34:50.580] - Steve Morreale
Why didn't you find Whitey Bulger for us? I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I had to say that.
[00:34:56.540] - Barney Melekian
He was probably there.
[00:34:59.840] - Steve Morreale
All right. All right.
[00:35:00.650] - Barney Melekian
But so I meet with Eldridge Cleaver and I have breakfast with him before he's going to go speak to the cops. And I said, boy, you've come a long way since the cops. And he said that we didn't hate the cops and that we hated the government. He said the cops were just the only arm of government we ever saw. And that's where that really impacted because he said, you know, 10 percent of those cops are the most outstanding human beings I've ever met.
[00:35:25.250] - Barney Melekian
He said and 10 of them, 10 percent of them were something else, he said. And the 80 percent of our we're in the middle, good people trying to do their job. Kind of what you and I would say about any organization that we agree with, that whole notion, this whole issue about what is the role of the police and how do we you know, there's all this talk about building public trust. If we had another hour, I'd talk about that.
[00:35:46.640] - Barney Melekian
But I do think that building public trust is built one relationship over time. It's built one action at a time. And when there are bad things that happen and they will and leadership has to step up and do two things, it has to make it very clear to the public what happened. So, for example, in California, you you have up to 60 days. The police body can't really hold it back under certain circumstances except for some extraordinary circumstances.
[00:36:13.760] - Barney Melekian
My intention always release video in 72, 96 hours because the public needs to know what happened.
[00:36:20.210] - Steve Morreale
Well, and the fear is and the inclination is you're hiding something.
[00:36:23.510] - Barney Melekian
Right. Funny, I found a 1922 document. Somebody gave me a book that somebody wrote about the history of this network. And in there was a kind of a journal entry from rookie patrol in nineteen twenty two. And in there he said that his training officer told him to try to avoid using his weapon because the public did not like the police killing. I don't think that that's changed in 200 years. At the end of the day, we do. We want the armed agents of the state and you and I both know that no police officer goes to work, gets a radio of the and says, boy, I hope I can kill somebody today.
[00:37:01.760] - Barney Melekian
Nobody does. But we have to build systems and make our training move in a different direction of this close with this partner. So one of the things that I think we really need to take a look at besides role is the nature of our training strategies and how we and how we do that. And I think I think the European model that is a much longer time, alternates between the classroom field over an extended period of time. I really think that we need to look at something.
[00:37:30.730] - Steve Morreale
I agree with you. And having spent time in Ireland and watching it up up close and personal, I think somewhere in the middle to what we do. First of all, I don't think there are standards that are sufficient enough for the United States because each state can be different. You've got 30 weeks. Somebody got 14 weeks. How the hell can you send a police officer out? What are they missing in those missing 16 weeks? But what I do like about in Ireland, and certainly it's a spinoff of the U.K., is the reflective piece where you have to sit back and think about, all right, you learned it.
[00:37:59.780] - Steve Morreale
Now you applied. It's really problem based and applied learning. And we don't do that. We don't do that. We don't sit down and do after action reviews about. So what happened? What did you do? What could we have done better? What did you know? What did you want to know? What would you have wanted to know when you got on that call that might have changed your perspective when you landed there? I know that you do that as a boss.
[00:38:19.380] - Steve Morreale
I don't think a lot of the sergeants doing that right now unless we drive it through the organization.
[00:38:24.000] - Barney Melekian
And I think I think one of the two things about that one is I think that reflected this important a couple of reasons. And one is the academy model is currently constructed in the US is generally hi, I'm actually a proponent of stress academies, at least initially, because I think they serve an incredibly valuable purpose. But if you think about a lot of the new ones training, how do you communicate with them or how do you understand cultural differences different?
[00:38:50.090] - Barney Melekian
Those are really subtle, nuanced things. And the way our academies, designs, designs, it's a survival exercise. You're going to get this block of instruction. You're going to pass so you can now move on this block of instruction. As you just pointed out, we need we need to change that. And the other thing is that too often, I think after actions on. Are very often and they become the biggest mistake we can make is to say that because it came out or which it usually does, because it came out all right, we must have done it right.
[00:39:20.200] - Barney Melekian
And SWAT teams are pretty good about not doing that, about saying now here's here's a mistake. Here's a mistake. I don't know that I'm on patrol as a matter of daily practice. I don't know that we do that.
[00:39:32.750] - Steve Morreale
Very interesting. I think that's where we can pick up on some new ideas. And we have to be honest with ourselves. No, we're running way over. But there's a few things that I want to know and I appreciate it because it's so important. There's so many things that I want to pick at with you. It seems to me that when we were talking about the things that we want to change, that, you know, where we want to take policing, how we want to earn back trust, we have to celebrate what we want to see more of in some ways.
[00:39:54.730] - Barney Melekian
And so, you know, I wonder how you do that. So let me ask you to put on your thinking cap. How long do you expect to be serving in this position? At the longest.
[00:40:03.560] - Barney Melekian
I think the longest would be really the end of the calendar year. My hope and my expectation is that the city will hire a permanent chief and its early to mid-September.
[00:40:14.140] - Steve Morreale
OK, so you've got several months ahead of you. And I guess the question would be whether it would be Santa Barbara or some other police agency that you went into. What are the three things that you are trying to accomplish to leave behind for the benefit of the incoming chief?
[00:40:28.690] - Barney Melekian
One is one is to provide an assessment of the department and not just in terms of the usual what are strengths, what are challenged challenges? Fairly easy, but really an assessment of the culture, because ultimately the chief has to don't do anything else. They're going to change the culture of the agency. They're going to shape it. They need to have an understanding of where it is. Secondly is instill in the organization itself to take the existing mission that they have and refine it, reinforce and so that there's this sense of mission and purpose that permeates the place of the new chief inherent staff.
[00:41:05.470] - Barney Melekian
And third, this is really just a matter of making it clear that I'm the chief as of the day that I walked in, and I will be the chief until the day that I walk out. But I don't try to hide the fact that at some point I'm going to walk out, a new person is going to come in. And that person deserved every ounce of effort that I've been shown and that they deserve this business that kind of goes back to every conversation, sort of.
[00:41:33.490] - Barney Melekian
We've lost an appreciation for the importance of position and institution. So I try to I really try to drive those things home. And then the last thing I would say when they come in Riverside that I wrote when I went to work for the sheriff's office, the sheriff read my bio to the command staff, which I really wish he had, but he did anyway. And I told him, I said, you know, this document is a statement of what I have done.
[00:41:59.650] - Barney Melekian
You will decide for yourself whether what I do is of any value to and because I think too often we walk in and too many leaders walk in and say, this is my I keep forgetting where I'm really holding up.
[00:42:11.650] - Steve Morreale
That's OK. I see it. I see it. That's what it is.
[00:42:14.990] - Barney Melekian
Well, this is who I am. But no, it's not. This is this is who you were and who you are. You're about to you're about to start writing that book of who you are.
[00:42:25.060] - Steve Morreale
Judge me for the way I treat you. Judge me for the way I help you as opposed to what I was before. I appreciate that. What's on your to do list. Your personal to do list.
[00:42:33.430] - Barney Melekian
Well, I'm going to take you on a road trip around the United States. We're talking about doing that for several years. Yes. Let's do that. Good. I would like to continue to teach and to be involved in working with agencies and particularly with their leaders to help them be better. I keep telling myself I would like to write a book. I think I have one in me. But I also know that I heard a very famous Southern woman writer a number of years ago.
[00:43:00.700] - Barney Melekian
Somebody asked me what was what was the key to her success? She said, writers write and she's right about that. And other than maybe my dissertations articles I have written, so I have to start writing, I'm serious about it.
[00:43:13.960] - Steve Morreale
Well, the book The Profession is already taken. So you'll have to come up with a new you'll have to come up with a new one.
[00:43:19.120] - Steve Morreale
Last question, Barney. And I have yet to say that we've been talking with Barney Malecki and the chief now of the Santa Barbara Police Department.
[00:43:26.500] - Steve Morreale
And I want to know if you had a chance to talk with someone famous, either dead or alive, who would it be? Whose brain would you like to pick?
[00:43:34.850] - Barney Melekian
You know, I have I have a number of heroes in this business currently, and I can list them off. Bill Bratton, Chuck Ramsey, Ed Flynn, some great people. But I think that I would really like to sit down and talk with Abraham Lincoln. I think when I read his I read at least ten different things that he went through in the Times, that he lived in extraordinary nuances, character in the way or under enormous pressure and enormous criticism.
[00:44:07.390] - Barney Melekian
I read some of the newspaper articles about how he was. The time he's an American icon now, but he was despised by a large percentage of the population and I would love to spend time with him.
[00:44:20.000] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, he had a counterview that that actually won out. So and that speaks to sort of the divide, the political divide that we have in this country now. Listen, I want to thank you for your time. It has been a pleasure exploring the things that are in your mind and that you're trying to do. What's up for your weekend, even thinking about it yet?
[00:44:39.990] - Barney Melekian
No, no, I have actually. I have two grandchildren, Texas - 4 and 7. So they'll they will focus my reality and they'll keep you busy for sure.
[00:44:50.650] - Steve Morreale
Well, Barney Melalian, thank you very much for being here. This is The CopDoc Podcast. I'm Steve Morreale from Boston. We've been talking to Chief Melekian in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it. And everybody, please stay tuned for the next episode.
[00:45:06.130] - Steve Morreale
Barnie, you have the last word.
[00:45:07.610] - Barney Melekian
Steve, thank you for the opportunity. For those of you in the audience, remember, if you're in policing that you make an extraordinary difference in the lives of every contact group. And if you're not in policing, remember that those are human beings.
[00:45:20.950] - Steve Morreale
Were very well said. Thank you very much, Barney.
[00:45:24.160] - Barney Melekian
Take good care Steve.
[00:45:26.320] - Outro
Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune in to The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.
[00:45:47.430] - Steve Morreale
Hi, everybody. A few things before you leave. First, thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the U.S., but from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues and practitioners listening. We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Colombia. We appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback.
[00:46:09.660] - Speaker 2