San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell announced today she is leaving her position to become the next police chief for Fairfield.

The news comes two days after attorney Curtis Briggs demanded Cantrell’s termination during a #FreeTianna rally. Briggs is fighting San Luis Obispo’s charges against local activist Tianna Arata, who was arrested after a protest July 21. 

Cantrell began Fairfield’s recruitment process in May. After almost five years, Cantrell’s last day as San Luis Obispo Police Chief will be Sept. 30.  

“I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to lead the amazing men and women in the SLO PD that serve this complex community every day with respect, partnerships, integrity and dedication,” Cantrell said. “Further, I could not have been successful without the devoted members of the Police Roundtable and PACT who serve to bring policing and all members of our community, business leaders, diverse perspectives and opinions together for mutual understanding.”

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon said Cantrell has built respect and collaboration among community members with her ability to “understand and support many different points of view.”

“She used her position as a leader to continue reforms in the Police Department to improve community safety and integrate restorative and community-based policing practices,” City Manager Derek Johnson said. “We wish her the best as she continues her work in reforming police departments and working on systemic changes to reduce the use of force.”

On July 21, 20-year-old Arata organized a Black Lives Matter protest of about 300 participants and emphasized that safety and peace were top priorities. When tension built, SLOPD arrested Arata, who is now facing five felony charges and three misdemeanors with charges of resisting arrest, participating in a riot, unlawful assembly, false imprisonment and conspiracy. 

“Chief Cantrell’s blunder amplified demonstrations and protests,” Briggs said. “Chief Cantrell’s blunder jeopardized the peace and safety of this community.”

At a virtual press conference Tuesday, Cantrell responded to Briggs’ demand, saying she won’t step down and that she supports the charges against Arata.

Johnson says San Luis Obispo will initiate a national recruitment process for a new police chief in the coming months.

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