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Meet Santa Monica's New Chief
By Melonie Magruder
July 17, 2012 -- When Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks took the oath of office last month, she became the first woman to head the beachside city's 116-year-old police force.Seabrooks, however, doesn't see it as a big deal. She notes that cities in northern California have had women police chiefs and that she was the first black woman in California to become a city police chief in her previous job in Inglewood.
"In a few years, I don't even think gender will be part of the conversation," Seabrooks says. "In Inglewood, I was known as the first black female police chief. Then they dropped the black part.
"I guess it's an accomplishment in that it advances awareness of women in top civic positions. But particularly in Santa Monica, women have arrived."
Seabrooks takes the helm as Santa Monica enters a new era with a recently completed Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) in place and a comprehensive plan to address Downtown parking underway. ("Balancing the Downtown Parking Equation," July 16, 2012)
The end goal, Seabrooks says, is "managing traffic flow and controlling parking inventory to ensure that traffic moves in a way that does not impede bicycle and pedestrian safety."
Seabrooks emphasizes that it is necessary for the beachside city "to be able to balance the needs of residents who want a quiet environment with tourists who want to have a good time."
Seabrooks is no stranger to Santa Monica. She spent 25 years on the city's police force, rising to the rank of captain and assistant chief before her appointment to Inglewood's top post in 2007.
During her tenure, crime rates in the South Bay city of 110,000 dropped to the lowest levels in 40 years. When asked if the decrease in crime can be attributed to her policies, Seabrooks laughs.
"I'd like to say it's all because of my leadership skills, but in truth, drops in crime rates are in line with national trends," she says.
But, in part, she also credits "outreach efforts to neighborhood youth and efforts from law enforcement as a whole to help the community take active roles in making their neighborhoods safer. Taken together, you see lower crime rates."
Seabrooks is taking over a department with 443 employees and a budget of more than $70 million. She says policing Santa Monica offers challenges that are different in some ways from those of Inglewood and similar in others.
"There are leadership aspects in administration and mentoring that affect our core mission of fighting crime," she says. "The differences are in the nuances of our communities. Inglewood was a suburban setting and Santa Monica is a tourist destination."
One program Seabrooks plans to continue emphasizing is the department's youth outreach and mentoring, saying she has been impressed with results so far.
High on her list of worthy causes are the Boys & Girls Club, Rosie's Girls (a city-sponsored summer camp for teen girls geared toward encouraging educational and career choices) and Take Your Daughter To Work Day.
"I mentored a young man for a number of years when I was captain here," she says. "He was at my swearing in ceremony, and that means a lot to me. Our youth programs are essential.
"We must capture the energy of our young people while they still have high aspirations and leverage their talents towards the community. It's reinforcing that social contract that creates meaning and purpose for kids."
If Seabrooks has a role model, it is her mother, Selika M. Cade, who graduated from Hunter College in 1944 and taught at several "traditionally black" universities before moving to Southern California in the early 50s.
Cade spoke several languages, and despite growing up in a Jim Crow-era that pushed her literally to the back of the bus, she never questioned her right and her children's right to the best possible education.
"If our roles had been reversed, my mother would have been an incredibly accomplished, successful woman," Seabrooks says. "As it is, I grew up on 52nd and Compton Avenue about two blocks from the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) shootout" in 1974.
"We were right in the middle of gang territory. But my mother told me and my sister, 'You will go to college.'"
They did go, with her sister becoming a top scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though their mother hoped Seabrooks would attend law school, she took a different route, pursuing law enforcement as a career and becoming the youngest police officer in the state, at age 19.
While working, she continued her schooling, eventually taking a bachelor's and a master's degrees in public administration from California State University, Dominquez Hills and California State University, Long Beach.
Back in Santa Monica, Seabrooks plans to spend some time "re-acclimating" herself to the Police Department and getting a "good feel" for the organization she's returning to after five years.
"We're blessed here in Santa Monica to not be plagued with some of the problems other Los Angeles communities face, but we must stay vigilant," Seabrooks says. "Race relations are still an issue with us, but I think we can pull strengths from a diverse community."
Since returning, Seabrooks has spent some time getting reacquainted with the beach and re-discovering favorite dining spots.
"I can go for fois gras and escargot anytime," Seabrooks says. "But I was at The Shack the other day with a colleague, and we talked business over a really excellent burger!"
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