H-SANTA MARIA

Aug 6, 2013 6:01 PM by April Hansen, KSBY

Ralph Martin celebrates one year as police chief

Today, marks one year since Ralph Martin became Santa Maria's interim police chief.

Four months later, Martin became the permanent chief.

We sat down with the chief to talk about the challenges and improvements in his first year as chief.

The department has gone through many changes in the past year since Danny Macagani abruptly retired and Martin became the city's top cop.

When Chief Martin took office, the department had been embroiled in controversies for months.

"I don't think it's a secret, when I got here, morale was very poor. It was very low. There had been a series of incidents," said Chief Martin.

One of the most high profile cases was when Officer Albert Covarrubias, Jr. was shot and killed, on duty, by a fellow officer at a DUI checkpoint.

"I wanted to bring some stability to the department," said Chief Martin.

So to help rebuild the department, the chief brought in two veteran law enforcement supervisors he had worked with at the LA Sheriff's Office.

"You really have to have people around you that not only you can trust, but have that expertise and I believe I brought two of the best people I could have to help me through this transition," said Chief Martin.

In his first year, Chief Martin has added 16 new sergeant positions, doubled the amount of officer training and hopes to hire 23 more officers before the end of the year.

"I want to hand this department off to someone in the future to where this is a well-run oiled machine when I'm done," said Chief Martin.

He says he wants the department to have a strong relationship with the community, so he's created town hall meetings as an opportunity for people to be heard.

"And I can hear it firsthand exactly how they feel and what they see," said Chief Martin.

Chief Martin says his goals for his second year are to continue building community relationships and have a fresh start in a new home for the department set to open in June of next year.

"It's going to be an exciting time," said Chief Martin.

Before Chief Martin was brought in, Santa Maria had five officer involved shootings in 2012.

There has been one officer involved shooting so far this year.

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