The Secret Service this week thanked the Oxnard Police Department for 8 years of aid during President Reagan's comings and goings between the airstrip at the Pacific Missile Test Center at Point Mugu and his ranch in the Santa Ynez mountains.
Special Agent Richard J. Griffin handed Oxnard Police Chief Robert Owens a plaque honoring the department for providing medical emergency backup and motorcade protection whenever Reagan passed through.
Seven or eight times a year, Reagan would land at Point Mugu and go by helicopter to the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. In inclement weather, he would be driven. Oxnard police kept 25 to 30 officers prepared for various security duties, including rushing Reagan to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard if he developed a medical problem while traveling.
"I would say Oxnard has one of the finest departments we have worked with. Unfortunately, the Secret Service gets all the credit, or blame," said Griffin, whose L.A. office is responsible for the Oxnard area.
Owens, who acknowledged an "immense relief" each time the President passed through Oxnard without incident, emphasized that Reagan was never in peril. Once the department's Special Enforcement Team was called on to rout out a group of known criminals packing Uzi submachine guns, but the incident was not specifically linked to the President's presence, Owens said.
The chief said arrests had been made in connection with Reagan's presence in town, but he refused to say how many.
Both Owens and Griffin were tight-lipped about the number of Secret Service agents involved in the President's protection, as well as the emergency procedures they would use. Reagan may still need to call on such aid before Jan. 20, when his term ends.
After that date, Secret Service activity in western Ventura County will diminish when the Reagans relocate to Bel-Air, Griffin said. Protection will be provided for the anticipated ranch trips and visits to the new presidential library in Simi Valley, he said.
The Oxnard Police Department was also honored for its aid in counterfeiting and forgery cases, said Griffin, who was accompanied by Santa Barbara Resident Agent Dennis Morgan. Specific cases were not divulged.
The Secret Service has already presented the Santa Barbara Police Department with a similar award.