Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 33
Residents share what they want in Santa Maria's next police chief
A fresh set of eyes. Someone community minded. Someone who’s not afraid to address issues within the department. These are among the attributes Santa Maria residents want to see in their next chief of police.
Ralph Martin, a retired Los Angeles County commander, is currently serving as interim chief for the city. He took over for Danny Macagni, who had been placed on leave before retiring in August.
The forum is something the city has never done before, explained City Manager Rick Haydon.
“We had to take a look at the position and get a buy-in from the community on what they are looking for in a police chief,” he said. “At the end of the day, the police chief is a public servant.”
After arming the dozen or so residents at the forum with pencils and notepads, Haydon directed the crowd to divide into groups of six or seven people to answer two questions.
The first involved what leadership abilities and attributes locals would like in the next chief, while the second question asked residents what issues the new chief would need to address in his or her first year on the job.
After a half hour of discussion and deliberation, each group nominated a representative to share their results.
Santa Maria City Council candidate Etta Waterfield said her group wants to see someone with at least 15 years’ experience and who has a “fresh set of eyes.”
“This is what we’ve seen with our interim chief of police,” Waterfield said of Martin. “He’s been very keen on identifying so many complications.
Waterfield also said that increased training for police officers to prevent problems should also be addressed by the new chief.
The first group also noted that they’d like to see someone who will be able to organize the department, publicly address issues, and network with the public to develop open lines of communication.
The second group emphasized the need for a chief who is both bilingual and bicultural.
Helen Galvan, a Santa Maria-Bonita School District board of trustees candidate, said the new chief needs to be aware of the cultural diversity in the city.
Most importantly, residents want someone who can rebuild trust with the community.
“We’ve talked a lot about moving forward,” Galvan said. “But I still think we need to investigate what got us here in the first place.”
The results, which were recorded on large sheets of paper and hung in Council Chambers, will be applied to the screening panel and oral board during the recruitment process, according to Haydon.
Santa Maria is also reaching out to the public through a five-question survey on the city’s website, something Haydon said is new for the city as well.
He explained that they’re hoping to narrow it down to two candidates and appoint the new chief mid-December; he or she would be expected to start the job in January or February.
“For the last 10 months, the police department has been heavily criticized,” Haydon said in an interview with the Sun. “It’s time to go in a new direction, and this is the perfect opportunity.”
Councilmembers Alice Patino and Mike Cordero attended Monday’s forum.
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