City of San Luis Obispo announces new police chief

Mar 12, 2021

After months of searching, the City of San Luis Obispo offered its police chief position to Rick Scott, the current assistant police chief in North Richland Hills, Texas.

City Manager Derek Johnson said addressing systemic racism and racial bias in policing was an important consideration for city staff in making their selection for the position.

“What we’ve learned in 2020 and 2021 is that our community has said loud and clear that we want a new age of policing,” Johnson said. “The good news is that our police department has a good headstart on that in embracing the pillars of 21st century policing.”

Johnson said Scott is credited with leading efforts to reform policing in his prior position, focusing on increasing community engagement and reducing the use of force.

He said the city was also focused on finding a police chief who would prioritize solutions for homelessness, mental health challenges and substance abuse.

Johnson said public survey responses and focus groups helped inform the department’s decision. Scott was also interviewed by community panels, city managers throughout the region and police chiefs from across California.

“They, in turn, really helped crystalize that Rick brought the experience, the education and the background, and really the right philosophy, to lead the San Luis Obispo Police Department,”Johnson said.

The search began when former Police Chief Deanna Cantrell left the department in August 2020 to serve as police chief for the City of Fairfield.

Police Captain Jeff Smith serves as interim police chief for San Luis Obispo, but he is leaving the department in April to serve as the police chief for the City of Pismo Beach.

Scott is scheduled to begin his new role May 13, 2021.