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OVN EDITORIAL on Opinion page: Demand equal treatment 'under the law enforcement'

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Two separate issues are going on related to police reform in Ojai — financial reform and conduct reform. Critical to the city right now is financial reform.
Contract negotiations with the Ventura County Sheriff's office have been ongoing since July. Like any contract negotiation, the public cannot be involved, but you can make a difference, and your voice is needed to save the city $1.5 million per year.
The city of Ojai’s 40-year-old contract with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office has been orchestrated in concert with the county Board of Supervisors in such a way that the city of Ojai subsidizes the cost of sheriff services for the county. Ojai residents pay nearly double per capita ($453) for police services as compared to any other city resident in the county. The city of Ojai pays $10,000 per day for those services.
That is a total of $3.4 million to police a city area of three square miles (after subtracting two golf courses). It is decades past time Ventura County government stepped up to pay its fair share.

How Ventura County gets subsidized
Sheriff's Office website:
"The Ojai Station provides full-service policing to the approximately 30,000 residents residing in the Ojai Valley. Included in this population is the City of Ojai which contracts with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office for police services." 
The sheriff dictates the level of service required for the cities, and the county Board of Supervisors controls the rate. The actual service provided by sheriff’s deputies is not influenced by the city boundaries; rather, it is defined by the Ojai Valley service area that includes 30,000 people, 25% of whom live inside the city limit, an area that amounts to 25% of the service area. 
Ojai is forced to contract and pay for a service level equivalent to that of Fillmore — a city with twice our population. Fillmore — the next larger city with a population of 15,000 — has nearly double all reported crime and 10 times the amount of violent crime as Ojai has (per the Sheriff’s Office crime statistics report for 2020). Fillmore pays $226 per capita. 
The county Board of Supervisors doesn’t keep records of its costs inside the service area, and the sheriff doesn’t keep records of total crime, arrests or calls in the Ojai Valley service area. The Ojai Valley News Police Blotter is the best week-in and week-out public record, which is now broken out by city limit. How would these two county agencies know if there is double billing? There is no possible way to know. The sheriff has told city officials that the Ojai Valley service amount is for 30,000 people with 25 officers, and 7,500 residents have been paying for almost half of them. That is highway robbery.
The Ojai Valley News is in favor of both areas of police reform in the right order and proper forum. However, the city of Ojai doesn't have a police department. 
The city is broke and shouldering a large portion of the county's burden. Meanwhile, Ventura County counts $160 million poured into its tin cup from the feds’ latest coronavirus relief bill. Ojai, the hardest-hit city in the county — receiving no aid, to date, and expecting less comparatively from every other city — is stuck with the bill for the county’s policing.
The OVN urges Ojai city negotiators, City Manager James Vega and Councilmembers Ryan Blatz and Bill Weirick, to put every option on the table to bring this untenable situation to heel. That includes negotiating contract options with the Santa Paula Police Department or Santa Barbara County sheriff for services. For comparison, the city of Solvang is 5 square miles, and pays half as much as Ojai does to the Santa Barbara sheriff.

 

How you can help
The next highest-paying city is Camarillo, whose residents pay $259 per capita. The OVN recommends our community and those who want to see the city of Ojai solvent, demand equal treatment under the law enforcement. The city should refuse to pay any more than $259 per capita, retroactive to July, reducing our policing costs by $1.5 million annually.
Ojai’s power comes from its people. The city is broke and this 40-year-old injustice won’t get better without your help.
    1. Contact our elected Ventura County Supervisor, Matt LaVere: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 805-654-2703
    2. Contact Ventura County CEO Mike Powers: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 805-654-2681
    3. Contact your elected Ventura Sheriff Ayub: 805-654-2380 

 

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