Ralph Martin — who since August has served as Santa Maria’s interim police chief — has been named the permanent full-time chief of the embattled department, the 34th man to lead it since 1885. The SMPD has endured a tough year, culminating in former chief Danny Macagni stepping down after nine years at the helm.
Martin came to Santa Maria after 35 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. In a statement released Monday morning, Martin called the selection an honor. “I look forward to the challenges of leading the men and women of this fine department and working closely with City leaders and community groups,” he said. “I would ask that you (the public) join me and the members of the Santa Maria Police Department in forging a strong working relationship, as we continue to improve our services by providing the best public safety possible for all residents and businesses alike.”
Martin took over a department fragile from the February shooting death of one of their own, Albert Covarrubias, who was accused of a sexual relationship with an underage female minor with the SMPD’s Explorer Program. Covarrubias resisted, drawing and firing his weapon when officers moved in to arrest him for his alleged crimes, and a fellow officer shot him. That was the second incident since December where a Santa Maria police officer was hit by friendly fire.
The news came on top of what seemed to be an increase in serious violence in the city of 100,000 residents, which has had its share of shootings and stabbings over the last two years. City leaders, however, are hopeful a transition at the top will be welcome news after a troubling period.
“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,” said Mayor-elect Alice Patino in the city’s press release Monday morning.