2010-04-15 / Front Page

Candidates for sheriff pull no punches during forum at Cal Lutheran

By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

ACCENTUATING THEIR DIFFERENCES—Ventura County sheriff candidates Chief Dep. Dennis Carpenter, left, and Cmdr. Geoff Dean, both with more than 30 years of VCSD experience, answer questions at a forum at California Lutheran University. More than 120 people packed the Roth Nelson meeting room. Almost half had to stand in the back to listen as both candidates responded to questions from the audience. NANCY NEEDHAM/Acorn Newspapers ACCENTUATING THEIR DIFFERENCES—Ventura County sheriff candidates Chief Dep. Dennis Carpenter, left, and Cmdr. Geoff Dean, both with more than 30 years of VCSD experience, answer questions at a forum at California Lutheran University. More than 120 people packed the Roth Nelson meeting room. Almost half had to stand in the back to listen as both candidates responded to questions from the audience. NANCY NEEDHAM/Acorn Newspapers Two men with a lot in common blasted each other during a forum meant to help voters decide who should be the next Ventura County sheriff.

Chief Dep. Dennis Carpenter and Cmdr. Geoff Dean are close in age and have served together for more than 30 years in the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

Wearing dark suits, white shirts, blue ties and lapel pins, the two put their similarities aside on April 7 at the question-and-answer forum at California Lutheran University as about 120 people, almost half of them standing, packed the Roth Nelson meeting room.

Among the issues on the minds of the crowd were crime rates going up due to budget cuts, Amgen’s allegedly recruiting valuable Internet officers away from the department, gang violence, early prisoner release, marijuana laws and gun control, but the first concern was how the two candidates are splitting endorsements within the department.

It’s been 32 years since Ventura County residents have had more than one candidate for sheriff on the ballot. The election will be Tues., June 8.

Before current Sheriff Bob Brooks decided to retire, he issued an order to VCSD staff to not engage in campaigning or politicking while he was considering if he would seek reelection or not.

In 2008, Dean, a chief deputy at the time, was fired by Brooks for violating that order after Dean asked a secretary about Brooks’ campaign donor database. Dean’s firing was reversed after a Ventura County Civil Service Commission ruling found the sheriff’s decision to fire him “clearly excessive.”

The commission also found Dean guilty of insubordination. He returned to the department at the lesser rank of commander.

The race has divided the sheriff’s department. Carpenter, 55, is backed by Brooks and the rest of the department’s command staff. The deputies union and police chiefs from five cities that contract for VCSD services support Dean, 52.

The first question of the evening asked how the sheriff’s department would be unified after the election.

Dean said there’d been rumors he was going to fire the chief deputies who support his opponent, but he said he “wasn’t going to fire anybody.”

“I‘m going forgive and forget. I’ll be looking ahead and focusing on the safety of our people. That’s what’s most important,” Dean said.

When the discussion addressed crime, Dean said the county needs “more front end protection,” with everyone working together with at-risk kids to control the gang problem since 70 percent of those locked up were once in foster care.

Carpenter noted his long association with the Boy Scouts and recommended the organization to keep children out of gangs.

Dean said a strong anti-gang law in Oxnard “spread gangs around the county,” and “some gangs came to Thousand Oaks.”

“There is no shortage of gang crime,” and budget cuts could make it worse. That’s why “public safety needs to be the priority of our governance,” Carpenter said.

“We have gang violence in Thousand Oaks. Some like to pretend we don’t,” Dean said.

Both praised federal efforts at helping to identify illegal aliens in the county’s jail, but neither wanted officers on the street to be concerned about a victim’s citizenship when they were reporting crimes.

Dean said he didn’t want an undocumented person who’s sexually assaulted or victimized by a gang to be afraid to talk to law enforcement officers.

Both were against the legalization of marijuana, calling it a “gateway drug” that opens the door for young people to use other drugs.

For every $1 used to purchase marijuana, $8 is spent to get people off the drug, Carpenter said.

As the budget to fight crime is cut, crimes will increase, he said. Having more officers lowers the crime rate.

But both men agreed that budget cuts are inevitable.

Carpenter said the county needs to “move toward regionalization,” with federal, state and local authorities collaborating to maximize enforcement and strengthen the force during budget cuts.

Dean said he’s in favor of “collaboration and creativity.” Greater use of technology and the focusing of resources would help make up for fewer officers in the future, he suggested.

“Enhancing the use of technology can help fight sexual and other Internet crimes,” Dean said.

It’s hard to maintain Internet officers because “Amgen steals” them after the department trains them, Dean alleged.

Both liked the idea of expanding the use of public safety volunteers.

As the forum closed, the officers took shots at each other.

“I have an unblemished record, and my opponent can’t make that claim,” said 37-year VCSD veteran Carpenter. Earlier he’d said others praise him for his integrity—“doing what is right all of the time—when no one’s looking and when everyone’s watching.”

Carpenter was once chief of police in Thousand Oaks.

“His former bosses on (the Thousand Oaks) City Council are supporting me,” Dean said. Councilmembers Andrew Fox, Jacqui Irwin and Tom Glancy are listed as Dean supporters on his website. He previously said he’s a person who’s not afraid to say “the king has no clothes.”

Visit www.geoffdeanforsheriff .com and www.carpenterforsheriff .com for lists of supporters and more information.

At 7 p.m. Thurs., May 13 the League of Women Voters will have another sheriff candidates forum at Thousand Oaks City Hall in the Forum Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.

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