Santa Barbara- S County

SMPD Audit Recommends Department Changes

Two year OIR study followed string of deadly officer shootings.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A two year independent study of the Santa Maria Police Department makes dozens of recommendations for change.

The Office of Independent Review (OIR) was brought in by the City of Santa Maria to analyze and study the Santa Maria Police Department from top to bottom after one of the most turbulent and controversial periods in department history.

The shooting death of Santa Maria Police Officer Albert Covarrubias Junior in January 2012 by a fellow officer while on duty was the pinnacle of that turbulent time.

Covarrubias was under investigation by fellow officers for having a sexual relationship with a female underage Police Explorer Scout at the time of the shooting.

"This city will never see an incident like the Covarrubias shooting again", says SMPD Chief Ralph Martin.

The retired L.A. County Sheriff's Department Commander was brought in to replace former SMPD Chief Dan Macagni who resigned after the Covarrubias shooting and other deadly shootings involving Santa Maria Police officers during that period.

"A lack of adult leadership, there was some in-fighting, I don't think that's a secret", Chief Martin says about the OIR study and recommendations, "the report clearly states that, there was poor management in terms of some of the operations that were being allowed to proceed, we had a shooting on Agnes Street that resulted in the suspect's death as well as two officers being shot and wounded."

Chief Martin says among the dozens of recommendations in the OIR report, many have already been done by him and his new management team.

"Such as taking the department from a two command operation into three divisions", Chief Martin says, "its certainly easier to manage, when you have 170 people you can;t have just two divisions in the department, so we broke into three divisions and brought in another commander to oversee that."

"Some of them are in progress now but they still need to be implemented", Chief Martin says, "such as our Memorandum of Understanding with with Police Officers Union, and areas like that, but we will get there, its going to take some time but we hope to have it done within a year."

Chief Martin plans to make a full report on the OIR recommendations to the Santa Maria City Council Tuesday night at Santa Maria City Hall.

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