SLO police chief hanging up her badge

San Luis Obispo Cheif of Police Deborah Linden.//Contributed

Deborah Linden of Orcutt is ready to retire after nine years as police chief in San Luis Obispo and a career in Santa Barbara County law enforcement.

Linden, who says she’s a “classic workaholic,” plans to retire in late December to spend more time with her family and possibly to teach.

“I’ve always been focused on retiring when still feeling energized and on my game, rather than waiting until it feels like I need to get out,” Linden said.

“I’ve been doing this literally my whole adult life,” she added.

Linden says she’s experiencing a mixture of excitement and trepidation as she nears the finish line of her career but knows it’s the right time to move on, as she is turning 50 this year, her department has a new two-year budget adopted and a good management team at the helm.

“It’s a stable time to transition the position,” she said, and she hopes to have her replacement hired before the holidays.

“The hiring process is pretty extensive. They’ll do a nationwide recruitment,” she added.

Linden grew up in Northern California before attending UC Santa Barbara as an aquatic biology major, a far cry from law enforcement, but while a student at UCSB, she obtained work as a community services officer with the university police department

“I just fell in love with law enforcement,” she added.

Linden graduated from college in early 1984 and started working that same year as a deputy with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. She stayed with the department in various capacities until she was selected nine years ago for the position of San Luis Obispo police chief.

Within the Sheriff’s Department, Linden was a patrol deputy, a narcotics detective and a major crimes detective, as well as a sergeant, a lieutenant and a commander in various roles.

Linden said she had a “great time and a wonderful career” in Santa Barbara County, where her experiences with financial management, supervising operations divisions and overseeing major investigations helped prepare her to be a police chief.

“I think it really benefited me,” she said.

“I’m been blessed with some amazing, amazing opportunities,” she added.

Among the memories that stand out for her was investigating the late superstar Michael Jackson for child molestation allegations in the early 1990s, although the case was never prosecuted.

Now, having spent almost 28 years as a law enforcement officer, Linden is ready to hang up the badge and call it a career.

“I plan to take some time off and slow down,” Linden said, but noted that she will continue her work with community groups and would like to go back to teaching. She is also looking forward to having more time with her husband, who is retired from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

Linden has taught administration of justice classes at Santa Barbara City College and at the Hancock police academy. She has also taught at St. Mary’s College, where she earned her master’s degree.

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Linden’s leadership and friendship will be missed by those she worked with, including San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson, who previously served as a captain with the San Luis Obispo Police Department.

Parkinson described Linden as a hard and thorough worker, and fair.

“She was the type of person that really worked well with others,” he added.

Linden built solid relationships both with her fellow police officers and with others, according to Parkinson.

“She was very engaged,” he said.

Jim Peterson, undersheriff at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, has known Linden since they were college students together some 30 years ago.

“I already knew back then she was one of the most organized people I ever knew,” he said. “She took really good class notes and she was a great study partner.”

While working with the Sheriff’s Department, Linden would complete projects in a way that exceeded all expectations, Peterson said.

When she moved on to the San Luis Obispo Police Department, Peterson had mixed emotions because she was leaving the Sheriff’s Department.

“I just knew that San Luis was gaining a gem,” he said.