2012-08-23 / Front Page

Issues get brewing at Coffee with the Chief

By Stephanie Sumell


FRIENDLY VISIT—Police Chief Randy Pentis chats with volunteer officer Betty Horner, police department records specialist Maria Rivera and daughter Karina, 16, during Coffee with the Chief at The Village at Moorpark shopping center on Friday. 
IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers FRIENDLY VISIT—Police Chief Randy Pentis chats with volunteer officer Betty Horner, police department records specialist Maria Rivera and daughter Karina, 16, during Coffee with the Chief at The Village at Moorpark shopping center on Friday. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers In a world where so much information is shared via text message and email, Thousand Oaks Police Chief Randy Pentis likes to do things the oldfashioned way: talking over a cup of coffee.

“For me personally, nothing replaces face-to-face communication,” Pentis said. “It doesn’t cost money. It just takes time.”

So last Friday from 8 to 9:30 a.m., Pentis and Capt. James Fryhoff conducted TOPD’s third monthly Coffee with the Chief, this time at The Village at Moorpark shopping center on Moorpark Road.

The community outreach effort, which began not long after Pentis was named chief earlier this year, provides a forum for local taxpayers to ask questions and voice their concerns to the city’s top cop and other law enforcement officials in a casual, stop-in setting.


FACE TO FACE—Bicyclist J.C. Simmons of Newbury Park discusses his concerns about speeding drivers and bicycle safety with Thousand Oaks Police Chief Randy Pentis during Coffee with the Chief at The Village at Moorpark shopping center on Aug. 17. 
IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers FACE TO FACE—Bicyclist J.C. Simmons of Newbury Park discusses his concerns about speeding drivers and bicycle safety with Thousand Oaks Police Chief Randy Pentis during Coffee with the Chief at The Village at Moorpark shopping center on Aug. 17. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers “It’s simple,” Pentis said. “We can sit down, enjoy the beautiful weather, have a cup of coffee and just talk.”

Already, the meetings are helping the new chief connect with the community in a more personal way: “If you had a problem, you could email me, but I don’t understand how you really feel about it, how upset you are, how passionate you are, unless I talk to you,” he said.

Friday’s meet-and-greet outside Starbucks demonstrated the idea in practice.

Thousand Oaks homeowner Louis Lapides and his wife, Kathryn, came to express their dismay over the rampant drug use among local teens.

Kathryn Lapides said parents and law enforcement need to join forces to address a problem that is too often swept under the rug

“The majority of Thousand Oaks residents live in the bubble,” she said. “They think wealth is an insulator, but it’s not.”

Louis Lapides told the chief that his deputies weren’t doing enough to punish drug offenders.

“In my opinion, (the police) turn their heads,” he said. “They give a little slap on the hand and say, ‘Go home.’”

The concerned father said something has to be done soon

“No more theories, no more ideas, no more politics. . . . Police need to get hard on it,” he said. “Parents need to hear from the police, ‘We’re just as concerned. How can we work together?’”

Drug use was one of an array of topics to come up Friday.

Jim Elizarraz, a Thousand Oaks resident, asked the chief about the growing number of people begging for money on street corners.

“Over the last few years, the amount of panhandling near freeway off-ramps and around businesses seems to be multiplying,” Elizarraz said. “I’m not saying this city is screwed up; I’m just saying, is there something that can be done?”

After he was finished speaking, the San Fernando Valley native said he appreciates the chance to have face time with the city’s highestranking lawman.

“In the Valley, you don’t see programs like this,” Elizarraz said.

Not all attendees came with complaints.

J.C. Simmons, a longtime Newbury Park resident, attended the event to express his gratitude to the department.

“I wanted to thank the chief for his support of the Ride of Silence,” he said.

Last May, roughly 280 cyclists rode a 10-mile course in memory of cyclists who’ve been killed or injured by cars.

“We rode from city hall through Westlake and back to city hall with a police escort,” Simmons said. “It’s a great event.”

Simmons, a former president of Conejo Valley Cycle Club, said Coffee with the Chief is a valuable partnership between law enforcement and the community.

“It’s the first time I remember the police department reaching out like this,” he said. “It’s a great service.”

Fryhoff called Friday’s coffee, which drew about 20 people, another successful back-and-forth.

“It’s a way for us to reach out and say, ‘What is it that you would like to see us do different? What are your concerns?’” he said. “Then we go back, strategize and say, ‘Where can we focus our efforts?’”

Pentis said he looks forward to continuing Coffee with the Chief indefinitely.

The next coffee is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 20. Its location has not yet been determined.

“I think it’s working,” Pentis said. “We want people to know that we care about their issues.”

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