2012-01-19 / Front Page

Pentis picked as T.O.’s next police chief

By Michelle Knight

Capt. Randy Pentis Capt. Randy Pentis Thousand Oaks’ next police chief has a vested interest in keeping the streets of the Conejo Valley safe—he lives here.

Capt. Randy Pentis, a native of Newbury Park and current resident of Westlake Village, will replace Jeff Matson a s commander of the Thousand Oaks Police Department on March 26.

“It’ll be great going home,” said Pentis, who’s spent most of his 30 years with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in Conejo Valley assignments. “I’m very, very excited about it.”

Pentis, 54, currently oversees court services at the Ventura County Government Center’s Hall of Justice. Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Camarillo, Ojai and Fillmore comprise VCSD’s five contract cities, and the department is in the process of reorganizing some of its leadership.

Matson, 59, who’s served as T.O. police chief since 2008, will replace Cmdr. Bret Morris in supervising the unincorporated areas around the Conejo Valley and Simi Valley and operations at the Moorpark Police Station. Morris is retiring in March.

As police chief, Pentis said, he’ll focus on joining forces with the school district to combat substance abuse and bullying.

He wants the public to become acquainted with the people who enforce their laws, so he plans to lead an outreach that includes setting up a command post at athletic events, where officers will introduce themselves to community members.

“Nothing, and I’m very passionate about this, nothing replaces face-to-face contact; nothing replaces two people talking about and solving a problem together, making their neighborhoods better,” Pentis said. “We’re fortunate in Ventura County and we’re very fortunate in Thousand Oaks, where we already have a great partnership with the people we serve. But I want to do better.”

That attitude has city officials like Mayor Jacqui Irwin excited about Sheriff Geoff Dean’s decision to select Pentis as the next head of the T.O. station.

“We hold the police chief responsible for making sure that resources are allocated in a way that we stay the safest city. . . . Certainly, Jeff Matson did a very good job, but now we’re very happy with Randy,” Irwin said.

Pentis is a compassionate man who’s established a great rapport with people in the city, Irwin added. When Pentis was T.O.’s assistant police chief from 2005 to 2009, Irwin worked with him to stem the problem of drug abuse and underage drinking.

“What you have in Randy is somebody that has deep roots in the community, has worked a significant portion of his career in Thousand Oaks and is involved beyond just police work . . . (in) supporting the different charities around the community, so he’s going to be a great fit,” Irwin said.

Dean said Pentis’ qualities and connections with the Conejo Valley made him stand out.

“Anybody who meets Randy just kind of falls in love with him. He’s got an amazing personality— he loves people. . . . We’re in a people business, and that’s highly critical,” Dean said.

Police chiefs in contract cities work for the sheriff’s department, but they also work for their respective city managers, Dean said, and he likes input from the cities’ top executive on replacement choices.

Pentis was one of the first gang investigators in T.O.

He was a patrol sergeant and training sergeant here before becoming assistant chief.

He’s worked in patrol, investigations and special enforcement during his time with the sheriff’s department. This will be his second stint as a station commander, having served previously as police chief in Fillmore.

Because public safety is the City Council’s first priority, the role of Thousand Oaks police chief is an important one, said Irwin. The police chief is a member of the city’s manager executive team, which meets weekly. The chief attends most council meetings, including the annual meeting where the council sets its objectives for the year.

“So it’s really important that we have an open relationship and a good relationship with the police department and that we have confidence in the person that is leading the police department,” Irwin said.

Councilmember Dennis Gillette, who retired in 1988 as a Ventura County assistant sheriff after 27 years with the department, called Pentis an “excellent choice” as T.O.’s top cop.

He said residents and city leaders demand the law enforcement department be objective and impartial.

“The key to that is placement of the person who is put in here to serve as the police chief for the city,” Gillette said. “(Over the years) the sheriffs have insisted and required that the people that they put in here are qualified for that level of executive municipal law enforcement management.”

Pentis, who’s married and has three adult sons, volunteers to help at-risk youths. He is also a founding member of Cops Running for Charity, a nonprofit group of Ventura County police officers who run marathons in places around the globe to raise money for local charities, particularly those that help children.

The City of Thousand Oaks is the largest of the sheriff’s five contracts with a total of 93 deputies and 16 civilian employees, according to Matson.

T.O. has contracted with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement services since the city incorporated in 1964.

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