SANTA MARIA - Having just been named Santa Maria's new Chief of Police, Ralph Martin talked to Central Coast News about his priorities for the department going forward.
"I know everybody hears this, we are understaffed", Martin says, "we handle 250 calls for service everyday, which is over 90 thousand a year, when you factor in a number of these calls take not just 5 or 10 minutes, but sometimes they are an hour or two hours long."
Martin says beyond the 20 or so new officers Santa Maria Police will be able to hire with the help of the voter-approved Measure U, he's looking to put even more boots on the ground in the coming years and beef up the department's middle management ranks.
"Our ratio of supervisors to police officers is very high right now", Martin says, "so I would like to get it down to 8 or 9 to one, as opposed to 13 or 14 to one."
Martin was hired by the City of Santa Maria last August to serve as interim police chief after the sudden resignation of former chief Dan Macagni who was placed on paid administrative leave for unknown reasons.
City Manager Rick Haydon, who had final decision-making authority in hiring the new chief, says there was a national recruitment to fill the position that resulted in about a half dozen "finalist" candidates who interviewed for the job.
Haydon says responses from members of two screening panels he appointed to interview the finalist candidates for the position overwhelmingly pointed to Martin as the best person for the job.
Martin says his years of experience in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department dealing with gang-related issues and crime in South-Central Los Angeles will benefit Santa Maria.
Martin says there will be a continuous series of town hall meetings in the community as part of a larger SMPD public outreach program.
As for the string of Santa Maria Police Officer-involved shootings that took place in the months prior to his arrival, Martin says he's changed department policy to bring officers involved in shootings back on duty faster after they've been evaluated by mental health experts.
Martin says he's confident his officers can handle any situation that comes up.
"We have dozens and dozens of pursuits in the department every year, not all of them end up in an officer-involved shooting", Martin says, "I think the officers have done a very good job in that they know how to de-escalate, if they don't see the threat, then they know how to make adjustments."
City Manager Haydon says he's still finalizing the details of Chief Martin's employment contract with the city that will pay an annual salary of between $141,000 and $171,000.
Chief Martin is expected to be sworn in as Chief of Police at the Santa Maria City Council on December 18.
Friday, May 24 2013 4:18 AM EDT2013-05-24 08:18:45 GMT
CENTRAL COAST, Calif. - You can't say "summer" without "sequel." This weekend, two big ones are hitting the box office. Here is a breakdown of the latest movies coming to theaters: THE HANGOVER PARTMore >>
CENTRAL COAST, Calif. - You can't say "summer" without "sequel." This weekend, two big ones are hitting the box office.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 2:33 AM EDT2013-05-24 06:33:48 GMT
ORCUTT, Calif. - Righetti High School students showed off their works of art on Thursday night, hoping to raise money for an important cause. The art showcased the work of more than 600 students, featuringMore >>
ORCUTT, Calif. - Righetti High School students showed off their works of art on Thursday night, hoping to raise money for an important cause.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 1:29 AM EDT2013-05-24 05:29:53 GMT
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The OUSL Crusaders Boys Soccer Team have won the state championship, breaking new grounds for the Central Coast in sports. The Crusaders won the President's Cup against 56 otherMore >>
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The OUSL Crusaders Boys Soccer Team have won the state championship, breaking new grounds for the Central Coast in sports.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 1:19 AM EDT2013-05-24 05:19:06 GMT
ATASCADERO, Calif. – The Atascadero Police Department has confirmed a death first reported as suspicious on Wednesday, May 22nd is now being classified as a homicide. The victim is identified as 52-yearMore >>
The Atascadero Police Department has confirmed a death first reported as suspicious on Wednesday, May 22nd is now being classified as a homicide.More >>