Three high ranking Santa Monica police officers will each have a turn at serving as police chief on an interim basis while a search is conducted for a successor to Chief James Butts.

Butts, who served as Santa Monica police chief for 15 years, had his last official day in office Friday, August 25th.

He stepped down from the position to assume the new role of deputy executive director of airport law enforcement and protection services for Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) — the city agency that operates Los Angeles International Airport and three other Southern California airports.

Three high-ranking Santa Monica police officers have each expressed an interest in the job of police chief and City Manager Lamont Ewell said he has decided to let each of them have a chance at serving the interim role for a 30-day period.

“Because there are several of our command staff within the department who are desirous of becoming the city’s next chief of police, and in an effort to demonstrate fairness, beginning this weekend Deputy Chief Phil Sanchez will begin serving as interim chief for the next 30 days,” Ewell said in a statement August 25th.

Captain Mark Smiley will serve as interim Santa Monica police chief during the second 30-day period and Captain Jacqueline Seabrooks will take over the interim role the last 30 days, Ewell said.

“All are in agreement to be supportive of one another to ensure that the interest of the department and city residents remain a top priority,” Ewell said.

Butts has said that he believes there is “talent” within the police department to take over his position and lead the department into the future.

Also, the city has hired the Sacramento-based firm of Peckham & McKenney for $17,500 to conduct a nationwide search for a new police chief, and city officials said they will consider all candidates.

Santa Monica city spokeswoman Judy Franz said interviews of the candidates are scheduled to be conducted during October and Ewell expects to have a new police chief selected by the end of October.

With Butts’ new position at Los Angeles World Airports, he will oversee the nation’s largest airport law enforcement and security organization.

He will be responsible for leading more than 1,200 sworn and civilian personnel assigned to protect and serve the four Los Angeles airports. Butts will also collaborate and coordinate law enforcement and security duties of more than 4,000 federal and local officers.

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