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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 13th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 40 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 40

Santa Maria's interim police chief Ralph Martin drops the 'interim'

By AMY ASMAN

Ralph Martin is now the police chief of Santa Maria, city officials announced to the media on Dec. 10. The appointment of the man who’s been acting as interim chief ends a tumultuous year for the Santa Maria Police Department, which has been embroiled in controversy since the shooting death of officer Albert Covarrubias, Jr., in January.


Chief changes:
Soon-to-be Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin talked to the Sun on Dec. 10 about his future plans for city law enforcement. He will be sworn in at the City Council meeting on Dec. 18.
PHOTO BY AMY ASMAN

Martin replaces longtime police chief Dan Macagni, who retired in August after his department underwent investigations by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review.

The city conducted a nationwide recruitment for the position. Two five-member review panels—one comprised of government and law enforcement professionals, the other of community members—questioned the frontrunners, while outgoing mayor Larry Lavagnino and mayor-elect Alice Patino observed.

“I felt the questions were very good,” Martin told the Sun in an interview outside the police station on Dec. 10. “They asked about [my] vision for the city and the department; how to work with fiscal constraints and still do a good job.”

He said the panels also asked about his experience with gang abatement.

Martin started as a gang investigator in the 1970s, one of the first in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. His career in gang abatement culminated in 2007 when he attended and presented at a gang strategy summit in El Salvador to discuss the violent street gang MS13 with various Central American police chiefs and attorneys general.

“I helped work out a program that brought Salvadoran gang investigators to Los Angeles,” he said, adding that the partnership helped combat gang activity across multiple borders.

Along with gang abatement, Martin said, his focus in Santa Maria will be on community relations and community policing.

“I’m going to be reinstituting community beats with coordinators in three parts of the city,” he said. “Their primary responsibility will be quality-of-life issues—abandoned cars, loitering gang members, and even yard sales—all the things that people think we’re too busy to come out and deal with.”

He said three community officers have handled 144 calls since the program started six weeks ago.

Another issue Martin plans to address is prostitution, which he called “a big problem” in Santa Maria.

In a prepared statement to the media, mayor-elect Patino stated, “Chief Martin has done an excellent job for the city over the last four months, and the city is very fortunate to have someone with his credentials and skill-set come to Santa Maria and lead the men and women of our police department.”

Martin is a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where he was responsible for the communities of Compton, Century, Carson, Lomita, Lennox, Marina del Rey, and West Hollywood.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Los Angeles and a master’s degree in communications from Pepperdine University.

He will be sworn in at the beginning of the Dec. 18 Santa Maria City Council meeting.




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