Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 12:00 am | Fair 54º

 
 
 
 
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Santa Maria Celebrates New Police Station With Dedication Ceremony

Los Angeles County sheriff gives keynote speech as Police Department cuts the ribbon for the new 70,000-square-foot facility on Betteravia Road

Chief Ralph Martin presides over the dedication ceremony for the new Santa Maria Police Station. At left is Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell who provided the keynote speech during the ceremony.
Chief Ralph Martin presides over the dedication ceremony for the new Santa Maria Police Station. At left is Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell who provided the keynote speech during the ceremony. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A formal dedication ceremony Wednesday celebrated the new Santa Maria Police Station where the Los Angeles County sheriff noted the challenges facing today’s law enforcement officers but urged members to collaborate.

Approximately 250 people gathered in the parking lot at 1111 W. Betteravia Road for the ceremony, more than three months after most of the department’s staff moved into the new home for the police headquarters.

“It’s been a long-time in the making … This is a day they thought would never come, by the way,” Chief Ralph Martin said after asking retired officers to stand and be recognized. 

Local officials joined past and present members of the Santa Maria Police Department for the event, which included a ribbon-cutting ceremony near the front door.

“This is a historic occasion,” Mayor Alice Patino said. “It’s not every day that a city builds a new facility, let alone a new police station.”

Santa Barbara is poised to build a new police station at half the size of Santa Maria’s and twice the cost, Patino noted.

Past and present City Council members and other local officials join Chief Ralph Martin for the ribbon cutting ceremonyat the dedication of the new Santa Maria Police Station. Click to view larger
Past and present City Council members and other local officials join Chief Ralph Martin for the ribbon cutting ceremonyat the dedication of the new Santa Maria Police Station. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“Very typical of Santa Maria, very typical of Santa Barbara,” she said.

The renovated building replaces the old station at 222 E. Cook St., a facility the department outgrew long ago. One key element — a free-standing sign saying “Police Station” perched on a pole — was relocated and now sits near the front door of the new station.

The Betteravia site, once used by Lockheed Martin Corp., provides 70,000 square feet designed to accommodate law enforcement needs. The remodel occurred over 18 months with Diani Building Corp. as the prime contractor.

Some vital staff members have not yet moved into the facility. The large room to house the city’s emergency dispatch center sits empty despite raised floors for crucial equipment. The emergency dispatch center is scheduled to move into the Betteravia site sometimes in 2016, Sgt. Russ Mengel said. 

The dedication ceremony’s keynote speaker, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, noted the many challenges facing today’s law enforcement officers.

Some 40 percent of his deputies’ use-of-force incidents involve mentally ill people, and adding in people who are dealing with addiction boosts the number to 70 percent, McDonnell said. 

He also noted the debate about the legalization of marijuana — “a drug that is so much more potent today than it was in years past. Very different outcomes for young people,” he said, saying law enforcement will deal with the results for years.

Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino draws a reaction from Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, left, and Chief Ralph Martin, during her speech at the new Santa Maria Police Station dedication ceremony on Wednesday. Click to view larger
Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino draws a reaction from Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, left, and Chief Ralph Martin, during her speech at the new Santa Maria Police Station dedication ceremony on Wednesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Immigration matters require law enforcement to balance public trust and public safety, he added.

Mass casualty incidents also are becoming “almost routine,” he said, as various laws add new twists to law enforcement officers' jobs. 

All this comes as trust of police falters due to incidents across the country and led to attacks on officers. 

Human trafficking, cyber crime, identity theft and increasingly sophisticated criminal gangs also face officers.

“But in spite of all these challenges, this is not the time to give up,” McDonnell said.

“This is the time to come together as a law enforcement community to address the threats to public safety with well-conceived strategies and best practices.”

“To be successful we need teamwork and collaboration,” he added.

During the ceremony, Martin noted new station remembers the city’s first police chief, G.L. Blosser, who served for eight years after Santa Maria’s incorporation in 1905.

Chief Ralph Martin stands with Cpl. Robert Prescott and consultant Eddie Williams who were recognized for their roles overseeing construciton of the new Santa Maria Police Station. Click to view larger
Chief Ralph Martin stands with Cpl. Robert Prescott and consultant Eddie Williams who were recognized for their roles overseeing construciton of the new Santa Maria Police Station. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A smaller conference room recognized the role of the four constables who handled city law enforcement services for the previous 20 years. 

Santa Maria’s first police station was in City Hall, and moved into the Cook Street location in 1953, the chief said.  At the time the 10,000-square-foot facility housed approximately 18 officers who kept the peace in the city with a population of 20,000.

Over time, expansions saw the police station grow to 15,000 square feet and the department swell to 180 employees.

The new police station is designed to accommodate the department’s growth, Martin said. 

It also boasts a state-of-the-art crime lab, property and evidence storage rooms and a sophisticated communication system that will link equipment in Los Angeles and San Francisco, he said.

Locker rooms have large storage units for modern-day officers needing to stash an assortment of equipment.

The building's large size sparked jokes about needing a compass to navigate the long hallways. But the adequate space to conduct normal day-to-day policing operations is welcomed, Mengel said, showing off a large briefing room.

“It's huge,” he said. “We just love it.”

Future plans call for placing the shooting range inside the building, Martin added. 

To oversee construction, Martin assigned Cpl. Robert Prescott to be on site, and recognized the role he and consultant Eddie Williams played in making sure the facility met the department’s needs.

“The rookies know, the veterans know how unique a time this is,” the mayor said, noting now-Sgt. Paul Flores was told a new police station was imminent when he joined the department.

That was 26 years ago, Patino said of the longest member serving of the department. Now-Cmdr. Kendall Greene also heard a similar tale when he joined 24 years ago.

“Gentlemen, thank you for keeping the faith,” Patino said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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