Former Pasadena Police Chief Bernard “Barney” Melekian, whose law enforcement career spans more than 40 years, has been appointed as an Assistant County Executive Officer (ACEO) over public safety in Santa Barbara County.
Santa Barbara County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato made the announcement Wednesday, adding he will be transferring to the County Executive Office on September 10.
Melekian has been serving as Undersheriff to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown since 2015.
“Mr. Melekian has unparalleled experience, skill, and knowledge in the area of public safety, and in his time with the County, he has engendered trust and respect from everyone in and outside County government,” Miyasato said in a statement. “He will be a great asset to the County Executive Office to move some of the County’s highest priorities forward.”
As ACEO, Melekian will be responsible for coordinating interdepartmental efforts among public safety and justice departments, such as improving the efficiency of the criminal justice system, evaluating a new public safety radio network, and developing options for the existing main county jail.
“Undersheriff Bernard “Barney” Melekian is a true gentleman, an outstanding leader and the consummate law enforcement professional,” Sheriff Brown said. “It has been a distinct privilege to have had him as my second-in-command for the past three and a half years. While we in the Sheriff’s Office are very sorry to see him leave our organization, we are pleased that he will remain as a member of the County family and that he will work in a role that continues his connection with our agency.”
Melekian’s new position was created in fiscal year 2015-2016 to assist in coordination and oversight of public safety functions, but was held vacant due to budget constraints. Currently, three Assistant County Executives in the county oversee areas of health and human services, budget and finance, and community services and facilities.
Before he became Undersheriff at Santa Barbara County, Melekian held a federal job as Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which oversees grants to hire police officers and community policing, under the U.S. Department of Justice. He resigned as Pasadena’s Chief of Police after he was appointed to the federal position by Attorney General Eric Holder. Melekian served in the federal office from 2009 to 2013.
Melekian was Pasadena Chief of Police for 15 years. He came to Pasadena in 1996 in the aftermath the aftermath of the 1995 Halloween Murders, which saw three teenagers gunned down by three gang members.
Almost immediately, Melekian declared there would be “no more dead children.” During his time in Pasadena violent crime steadily declined.
During the officer-involved fatal shootings of Maurice Clark and Leroy Barnes in 2004 and 2009, Melekian showed transparency rarely seen today. In the latter shooting, the police union was forced to get an injunction to stop Melekian from revealing the names of the officers that shot and killed Barnes. In both cases, Melekian revealed the results of both the internal and independent probes of the incident.
Later he was named interim City Manager. He announced he would move back to the police department after the City Council completed a nationwide search to fill that position.
Melekian served as Acting City Manager from the time former City Manager Cynthia Kurtz retired in 2007 to when Michael Beck was selected for the position in August 2008. Melekian also served briefly as Pasadena’s Fire Chief in 1998.
Before coming to Pasadena, Melekian spent 23 years with the Santa Monica Police Department where he won medals of valor and courage.
“It has been my honor and privilege to work with the men and women of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office,” Melekian said in the Santa Barbara County press release. “I look forward to continuing to serve public safety working with the County Executive Office.”
As a nationally recognized expert in police practices, Melekian’s doctoral work on Values-Based-Discipline in Law Enforcement Organizations received the Sol Price Award as the outstanding doctoral project of 2012 in the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California.
He has a master’s degree in Public Administration and a bachelor’s in American History from California State University, Northridge.
He is also a graduate of the Harvard Executive Session, a three-year program aimed at producing quality academic publications for the benefit of law enforcement worldwide.