Monday, October 22, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 10th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 10

SMPD Chief Ralph Martin to retire this summer


Santa Maria Police Department (SMPD) Chief Ralph Martin announced on May 5 that he’ll be retiring after serving nearly five years with the city and more than 40 years in law enforcement.

Martin was originally hired by City Manager Rick Haydon on Aug. 6, 2012, as the interim chief following a series of officer-involved shootings under then-Chief Danny Macagni’s department, including one where the SMPD ended up shooting and killing one of their own, officer Albert Covarrubias Jr., at a DUI checkpoint on Jan. 28, 2012.

“It was a hornets’ nest,” Martin told the Sun, “there’s no question about that.”

Santa Maria Police Department Chief Ralph Martin will retire on June 23 after more than 40 years in law enforcement.

Four months after getting hired, Martin became the full-time department chief. Martin said he promised the city three to five years.

The department experienced significant changes under Martin. Some of the changes include moving the department’s headquarters from the previous location at 222 E. Cook St. to a “state-of-the-art” facility at 1111 W. Betteravia Road, dismantling the SWAT team and then rebuilding it a year later, and authorizing production of Life Facing Bars, a SMPD-produced gang prevention documentary.

Prior to coming to Santa Maria, Martin was a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. He began his career as a gang investigator in the 1970s and became familiar with gangs like MS-13.

Years later in 2016, his experience with that gang would prove useful during Operation Matador. The SMPD led the operation with the help of eight other local and federal agencies that resulted in the arrests of 17 suspected MS-13 gang members, several of whom are accused of murdering multiple people in Santa Maria in 2015 and 2016.

The operation was one of Martin’s most public achievements. It made headlines twice—once when it concluded and was announced in March 2016, and again  in national headlines in December 2016 after the Sun reported that the department used a fake online press release to mislead local media and some of the alleged gang members before the operation ended.

Martin defended the fake press release tactic, saying that it allowed police to not blow their cover while rescuing two young men who were targeted by the gang members.

Martin will retire on June 23, which is technically his second time retiring. The first time was from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office.

In retirement, Martin lent his experience as an expert witness in police use-of-force cases. Earlier this year, Martin and his department became the defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Javier Gaona, who was killed in a police-involved shooting in downtown Santa Maria in July 2016.

Now that he’s retiring for the second time, Martin said he’ll return to being an expert witness and continue traveling with his wife. But leaving the SMPD wasn’t an easy decision, he explained.

“It’s a tough decision, it really is,” Martin said. “I felt like I built this baby. I am confident that we have the right personnel, protocols, and organizational structure to ensure the Santa Maria Police Department will maintain its high standards and dedication to protecting the community. We are healthier. Morale is high. We are engaged and proactive.”

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