Jun 3, 2013 7:12 PM by April Hansen, KSBY News

Santa Maria PD is beefing up its force

The Santa Maria Police Department is beefing up its force.

It's the first hiring phase since city voters approved Measure U last year, which raised the sales tax a quarter of a cent to give more funding to public safety.

A portion of this money is being used to hire about 20 officers, but they are being very selective and few are making it through.

The Santa Maria Police Department has received hundreds of applications, but fewer than 10% of them have made it through a 27-page background check of personal questions from education level to criminal history.

It's a standard background check the Santa Maria Police Department is using to find the best.
It's a person's life history on paper.

Hundreds of questions designed to make sure the Santa Maria Police Department chooses the right person for the job.

"It pretty much puts someone's life under a microscope," said Lt. Kim Graham, Santa Maria Police Department.

Lt. Graham says it's a grueling process to be hired as an officer.

It starts by checking into their past.

"It lists all of their family names, their friends' names, where they've lived, where they work, and what schools they've gone to," said Lt. Graham.

Lt. Graham says budget cuts have kept the department in a hiring freeze for years, but with additional funding from Measure U, they hope to attract only the best.

"I call them ‘A' players. We are only taking ‘A' players," said Chief Ralph Martin, Santa Maria Police Department.

Chief Martin says a majority of the applicants pass the written exam and agility test, but he says background checks eliminate many of them.

"Sometimes there are maturity issues, sometimes there's education issue and of course there are issues related to substance abuse and other things," said Chief Martin.

This selective process is all in an effort to get the most qualified people on the streets protecting the community.

Lt. Graham says if anything questionable does show up on a background check the department investigates it before a final decision is made.

She says anyone with a felony is automatically denied.

With 20 additional officers, the department hopes to reach its target amount of staff at around 112.



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