News

News

The share for sheriff services

web shutterstock 113014078
When will the Ventura County sheriff and Ventura County Board of Supervisors stop making excuses to explain how charging Ojai residents double what residents of any other city pay is justified?
The costs defy our size, population, crime rate, and the data.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office determines the scope of service needed to adequately protect and serve the city area and the station area. When the sheriff’s contract with the city of Ojai was last approved in 1979, Ojai was required to provide for ONE patrol, made up of three shifts. At some point in the 1980s — no one seems sure when — the number moved to TWO, doubling Ojai city costs. The population had not grown then and still hasn’t much.
For the Ojai station area (28,000 people), five around-the-clock patrols in the station area are currently required by the sheriff. The issue surrounding charges for service has so far been focused on the proportion of expense the city is responsible for.
The city of Ojai, with fewer than 7,500 residents and less than 4 square miles (when we deduct golf courses), pays more than 40% of the total cost, while its area and population is 25%, and its crime rate is the lowest in Ventura County.
So far, logic, reason, complaining, and withholding payment have failed to effect change.
Ojai city officials have been no match for the aggressive stance of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office or the indifference of the Board of Supervisors, who together, complicit with past city councils, have gotten away with overcharging the city of Ojai for more than 30 years. The sheriff won’t even review the city’s draft of an updated agreement. 
This week, Ojai City Manager James Vega, has brought in a consultant, Chalices, LLC, with primary Scott Whitney, who recently retired from the city of Oxnard as the police chief after more than 30 years of service to the Oxnard Police Department, to comb through the books, and take a deep dive into comparative costs with other cities. 
The Ojai Valley News obtained the "City of Ojai Police Services contract Ventura County Sheriff Office" and requested the data to support its conclusions about service levels.
The Sheriff’s Office pie chart shows 10,932 total calls for service "in Ojai" area over 18 months. However, the data sent to the OVN April 29 do not support the graph or the narrative on that page.
The documents show the 18-month calls inside the city are 6,349; the pie chart shows 8,759.
Calls to the Station jurisdiction area are 7,340; the chart shows 1,949. 
The calls for the city were over by 2,410, and the outside calls were under-represented by 5,391 — a 7,801 mistake.
The county has enjoyed huge cost savings, apparently based upon faulty data and has, thus far, shown little interest in addressing the injustice. When the Ojai Valley News asked Supervisor Matt LaVere to weigh in on the responsibility apportionment in light of the recent data released by the Sheriff’s Office, he asked, “Who do you expect me to believe, a sheriff or a newspaper publisher?”
We don't want our elected officials to "believe" the Ojai Valley News, the Sheriff’s Office, or the lawyers of Best Best and Krieger (in the Ventura water lawsuit Mr. LaVere voted for), to make their decisions about Ojai. We encourage Supervisor LaVere to believe less, and to examine the data more in a good-faith move, then to apply facts and logic to right a 40-year-old wrong. 
From the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, city staff are being told: Trust us, you guys are getting a good deal. If you ask again, we are going to increase the rate.
Does it sound like they are going to play ball? The city of Ojai needs to be prepared with alternate, short- and long-term policing options. Will this be an Ojai City Council to change history? Perhaps this roadblock can open new and, ultimately, positive opportunities for the city.

 

Not a subscriber?  choose your subscription plan.