Ramon Batista Named SMPD Chief
October 21, 2021
By Jack Simon, Observer Staff Writer
Ramon Batista, Jr., a 35-year law enforcement veteran, has been appointed as the new Santa Monica Police Chief, city officials announced on Thursday. He starts his new post with an annual salary of $298,788 on Monday, October 18.
Batista, who is taking over for interim Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, comes to Santa Monica from Mesa, Arizona's third-largest city, where he served as police chief. Before that time, he spent 30 years rising through the ranks of the Tucson Police Department, including two years as assistant chief of police.
According to Arizona media reports, Batista resigned from his Mesa post in 2019 after clashing with local police unions over a series of controversial reform decisions and his treatment of his rank and file.
"Chief Batista is a tenured law enforcement professional who built strong community relationships in both of the communities he has served with outstanding performance," said City Manager David White. "We are certain he will do the same here in Santa Monica where strong relationships underpin community safety, trust, and collaboration."
As head of the Mesa Police Department, Batista oversaw a budget of $188 million and 760 sworn and over 450 professional staff. During his tenure, Mesa's major crimes were at an all-time low of 23 incidents per 1,000 residents, said city officials. A proponent of new policing initiatives, Batista led the implementation of a mental health crisis 911 diversion program whereby suicide calls to police were directed to crisis counselors.
In addition, Batista strengthened police-community relationships, launching a strategic plan, which focused on internal and external communication and de-escalation techniques that led to safer engagement between the community and the officers, city officials said.
"It is a tremendous honor to be selected as the next chief of police for the City of Santa Monica and to lead the Santa Monica Police Department into the next era of public safety," said Chief Ramon Batista. "The Santa Monica Police Department has a history of honorable public service, collaboration, outreach, and community safety. I look forward to being a part of the team and serving our residents alongside them."
Batista began his career in 1986 in Tucson, where he served in diverse roles from patrol supervisor, traffic division/solo motors, training academy commander, public information office director, patrol division commander, SWAT division commander, and chief of staff. He rose to the rank of captain in 2011 before becoming assistant chief, first for the patrol bureau (2014 – 2016) followed by the investigative bureau (2016 – 2017).
During his time in Mesa, Batista publicly condemned officers involved in use-of-force incidents in his attempt to reform the department. In one incident, two Mesa were seen roughing up a `15-year-old armed robbery suspect after he was handcuffed, according to AZ Central.
After more allegations against his department, the local police union cast a no-confidence vote against Batista, citing a very low morale among the officers, according to media reports.
Batista, who will be the first Latino Police Chief in Santa Monica, is married, and he and his wife have two children and one grandchild.