Former SLO police chief to retire after cancer diagnosis

Joe Johnston/

Former San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell will retire from her latest job in Northern California due to a breast cancer diagnosis, she announced this week.

Cantrell has served as chief of the Fairfield Police Department since September 2020; prior to that she served as the head of the San Luis Obispo Police Department from 2016 to 2020.

In a video statement Tuesday, Cantrell said this is her “second bout with cancer,” noting she lost her sister 11 years ago to the same disease.

“This recent diagnosis has really accelerated my plans for the future,” she said. “I have absolutely loved being your police chief in Fairfield and serving you, which is why it’s incredibly difficult for me to tell you that after 28 years in law enforcement, I am going to retire by the end of this year.”

Cantrell left San Luis Obispo amid some controversy in 2020.

During her tenure, she faced criticism after police tear-gassed Black Lives Matter protesters and the department arrested activist Tianna Arata in 2020. She also faced criticism for the losing her gun in a public restroom in 2019 and the follow-up search that led to an investigation and arrest of an unrelated suspect, according to previous Tribune reports.

In Aug. 2020, she announced she was leaving San Luis Obispo to become the first-ever female police chief for Fairfield.

“I am leaving the profession I adore with the deep satisfaction of knowing that I am leaving policing better than I found it, and leaving many people with the thoughtful understanding that we do not accomplish anything alone,” she said in her statement Tuesday. “I am absolutely humbled to have served you, and I am grateful for your love for me and for my staff and for this city.”