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Santa Maria police chief abruptly retires as pressure grows

As pressure grows, Santa Maria police chief abruptly retires.
Santa Maria officials announced that the city's police chief retired Friday after several days on "paid administrative leave."

Danny Macagni had been a Santa Maria police officer for 35 years and chief since 2003.

City Manager Rick Haydon declined Friday to say why Macagni had been placed on leave, saying it was a confidential personnel matter.

However, the chief's management of the 111-officer department has been questioned in a number of highly publicized incidents.

Last January, one of his officers, Albert Covarrubias Jr., was fatally shot as he was being arrested by other officers in connection with alleged sex offenses involving a 17-year-old girl. An investigation by the Santa Barbara County district attorney's office said the shooting at a DUI checkpoint was justified because Covarrubias threatened fellow officers with his gun.

Many residents faulted the chief for the incident, which resulted from what they saw as a poorly conducted operation from the outset.

In the wake of the shooting, the city asked the Office of Independent Review, a Los Angeles-based police watchdog group, to evaluate the department's procedures. No report has been released.

Santa Maria's police union cast a vote of no confidence in Macagni last February.


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-- Steve Chawkins

Photo: Santa Maria Police Chief Danny Macagni in 2009. Credit: Associated Press.


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