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Santa Maria police chief placed on leave for undisclosed reasons

Santa Maria officials confirmed Friday that the city's police chief had been placed on "paid administrative leave" but refused to disclose why.

Chief Danny Macagni'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 City Manager Rick Haydon declined to discuss Macagni's leave Friday, saying it was a personnel matter. 

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

He has been a Santa Maria officer since 1977 and held the department's top post since 2003.

-- Steve Chawkins 

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