Santa Paula Times

Mark Hanson new Assistant Police Chief now Acting SPPD Chief

October 12, 2005
Santa Paula Police Department
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesMark Hanson went from Assistant Police Chief to Acting Chief within a matter of weeks, and now the Santa Paula native is looking ahead to a new leader for the department he has been a member of for more than 32 years. Acting Chief since Bob Gonzales retired on September 30, Hanson said “Certainly Bob leaves a big void at the top, but we’ll fix that, things go on. I’ll keep the ship afloat while the new guy gets his feet wet.”An “Airport brat” who grew up at Santa Paula’s airfield, Hanson first became interested in police work when friends discussed the Santa Paula Police Department Reserve program. “I found it more than interesting, and when I joined I saw some things that I liked and thought I’d be good at,” such as crime scene investigation. Hanson became a full time officer, moving up in the ranks while working all aspects of law enforcement.Promoted to Commander in May 1987, Hanson has intimate knowledge of the SPPD. “Every police department has its own personality. And the SPPD has a great track record of Reserves becoming officers because we allow them to do more than other departments. And we have a great core of officers now.”Hanson’s reputation was as a careful, detailed orientated officer who excelled in crime scene investigations. It’s no surprise that his most memorable cases are centered on such detective work.One notable case, a murder, took a decade to prosecute when a woman was murdered by her lover in an area bar after she attempted to break off the relationship when she learned he was married. “She told him to hit the road, and he figured if he couldn’t have her no one else could.... It took 10 years, but we got him,” due to good police work and fingerprints lifted carefully by Hanson from a bottled beer and a glass.“All the training I’d received in crime scene investigation came into play with that case,” said Hanson. “Everything was done by the letter. When we got him, all we had to do was locate and dust off the witnesses” for the trial, that ended with the man sentenced to life in prison.Before the new SPPD Chief arrives, Hanson would like to do some sprucing up of the aging SPPD station. “Not anything big, but fix it up some for the new chief. We would like the Chief’s arrival to be a warm welcome.... I’m certainly going to do everything I can to make him feel welcome” and become familiar with the department.
The Chief recruitment and hiring process encouraged Hanson, who noted that “It sounds to me that the opinions of the various groups (SPPD, citizen and police chief interview panels) mattered.”The incoming Chief will face some challenges: “It’s no secret that money is tight, and we’ve been trying to do the best we can with the resources we’ve got. There’s limited space in this building... it’s functional but barely. Keeping people hasn’t been as big a problem as it could have been,” but upcoming retirements will leave openings to be filled.“Now that Bob’s gone I’m the senior guy here, other than Doyle Kelley, who retired as an officer in the 1980s and came back here part-time. Trying to do all the programs with limited staff is a challenge, and when officers get injured they can be off for long periods of time. You don’t replace those folks, but have to work without them. Our present challenges are the challenges into the future.”Hanson’s Assistant Chief position was recommended in the Arroyo Management Study, and he would like other elements implemented, such as a civilian manager responsible for administrative duties including finances, purchasing and grant writing among others heavy on paperwork. “That frees up the Assistant Chief and Lieutenant (also a newly created but yet unfilled position) to do more hands-on proactive planning on the sworn side, the police side,” Hanson noted.Married to Eleanore for 31 years, the couple has two grown sons, Brian and Mike. The Hansons were active in youth activities, with Mark serving the Santa Paula Nation-Y Indian Guides, and as AYSO assistant soccer coach, SPB&GC board director, assistant chairman of two Santa Paula Air Shows and past President of the Kiwanis Club.Job stability is a family trait. Eleanore has worked in the same North Main Street building for 29 years, and as the assistant to Dr. Kent Hollenback, DDS for the past 13 years.