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May 2, 2014 12:00 AM by Caroline Lowe

Santa Maria Police Department's outside review to be presented to city council

The results of a lengthy outside review of the Santa Maria Police Department will be presented Tuesday to the city council.

The Los Angeles-based Office of Independent Review was retained by the city to look at the policies of the SMPD after the shooting of Officer Albert Covarrubias, Jr. by another city officer on January 28, 2012.

Covarrubias was on duty at a DUI checkpoint in the city when two SMPD supervisors tried to arrest him in connection with allegations he had been involved in a sexual relationship with a female police explorer. Police officials at the time said Covarrubias fired his gun during the attempted arrest.

Six months after the controversial shooting, Police Chief Danny Macagni abruptly retired. He was replaced three days later by Interim Chief Ralph Martin. Martin, who retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, was later selected to be the permanent chief.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley found the Covarrubias shooting to be legally justified. The city approved a $185,000 settlement with the police explorer.

The OIR report is 49 pages long. In conclusion it found, "The past few years, SMPD has undergone significant upheaval commenced by two officer-involved shootings and the loss of a fellow officer and continuing with a change of command at the highest level. Our review found that the City and Department took advantage of these changes to move forward with progressive practices in the way in which SMPD polices itself and promotes Constitutional consistent law enforcement in its City. As noted here, while the Department trajectory is positive, more can and should be done to further improve those practices. We are expectant that it is in that spirit that our recommendations are received and considered by the City, the department and the citizens that are protected and served."

To read the full report, click here.

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