After nearly a half century in law enforcement, Lompoc Police Chief Joseph Mariani is looking forward to the next chapter in his life: retirement.
Chief Mariani announced earlier this month that he’s retiring at the end of this year. He has served as police chief since March 2019 and has worked in law enforcement for 49 years.
Chief Mariani became the Lompoc police chief following the resignation of Chief Pat Walsh. Chief Mariani is the Lompoc Police Department’s first Hispanic and bilingual police chief.
“I have learned many valuable lessons, but I think the most important thing is to remember our purpose,” Chief Mariani told the News-Press about police work. “We are the most visible and responsive arm of the government. People call us in times of distress, and we need to be responsive, engage with people and serve the community.”
The News-Press asked Chief Mariani about some of his accomplishments that he is most proud of.
“I was able to be part of an organization that was able to provide ongoing service during the pandemic, which was a challenge for an agency our size,” he said. “At one point, we were down 12 bodies and at risk of being unable to staff. However, we were able to staff due to the commitment of the people that I work with. I am proud of them and the work they did.
“We met a great deal of the recommendations coming out of the office of the internal review study in 2017. We reorganized the command structure to prepare for a sustainable succession plan,” he said. “We have been resourceful, automating risk management tracking systems and are continuing to make progress. We are in the process of purchasing radios that are long overdue.
“I hope that in the next budget cycle that we will have body cams implemented within the next year. Our succession plan is pretty strong now that we can assimilate to management ranks.”
Chief Mariani spoke to the challenges navigated during the emergence and peak of the pandemic.
“At the onset, none of us were prepared for what would occur,” he said. “We adopted safety practices as soon as possible. We did some things to decrease exposure by limiting exposure inside the building as much as possible.”
But unlike other professions during the pandemic, police couldn’t work remotely.
“We took a hard look at exposure and counter services and eliminated some that we would normally provide,” Chief Mariani said. “As vaccines became available, that was a big challenge for us as well. We weren’t on the priority list to receive it. Our officers were at risk, and there was a possibility that their families would be at risk if they were exposed.
“Those are things we had to contemplate and work out. For a smaller agency that was a huge challenge.”
The News-Press asked Chief Mariani about his legacy.
“I have always said that good organizations get it done and great organizations sustain themselves. That is what I hope the future holds for the Lompoc Police Department.
“I think we have a very young police department because we have many new officers,” he said. “We are fully staffed for the first time in seven years, which is no small feat. I hope that will continue and more importantly that we can return to a higher level of community engagement now that the pandemic is ending.”
“The plan is for Captain Kevin Martin to serve as interim police chief, and I hope he becomes the next (permanent) police chief. He is a qualified and tenured law enforcement officer,” said Chief Mariani.
Chief Mariani, whose last day with the Lompoc Police Department will be Dec. 31, added that he’s grateful for having had the opportunity to serve in Lompoc.
“I came here seven years ago after retiring from the Los Angeles Police Department. It has been a wonderful experience and I can’t think of a better way to end my career. This is a great city with great people. The biggest asset of this city is its people.
“One of the unique things about this department is that many of our officers are local to Lompoc, and that makes us very special and unique.”