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60 Seek Post of Police Chief in Oxnard : Law enforcement: A final flurry of inquiries is expected before today's deadline. Three candidates to succeed Robert P. Owens are from the city's force.

March 20, 1992|RON SOBLE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At least 60 law enforcement officials, two-thirds of them from California, are vying to become Oxnard's next top cop.

And Roger Storey, a recruiting consultant advising Oxnard officials on a successor to longtime Police Chief Robert P. Owens, expects a final flurry of inquiries before today's application deadline.

"The best applicants wait until the last few days to get their applications in," he said this week.

Storey's firm, Shannon Associates in Sacramento, recruits executives and other personnel for local governments and has recruited police chiefs for several California cities, including Chico, Buena Park and Oceanside.

Three Oxnard Police Department officials have applied for Owens' job.

James A. Latimer, one of two assistant chiefs, said he believes that he has an above-average chance of getting the job.

Latimer, who has been with the force for 26 years, said he would be a top choice because he "knows the department and the community."

Lt. Tom Cady, 43, who is in charge of detectives, has been with the department for 20 years.

"I've spent my entire law enforcement career working for (Owens)," said Cady, nephew of Oxnard's other assistant police chief, William Cady. "I think that's a very positive thing."

Lt. Stan Myers, 44, has been with the department for 20 years. Myers is in charge of support services, which include communications and background investigations.

"Owens has instilled managers to be innovative, and then to seek opportunities to advance and improve ourselves," he said. "I feel I would be remiss if I did not try."

Dene Jones, Oxnard's personnel director, said city officials would like to winnow the list to a few candidates by the first week in May.

The new chief, she said, "is going to have some awful big shoes to fill."

This was a reference to the nationally respected Owens, who has been the city's police chief for 22 years.

Owens, 60, who is retiring in June, said he is encouraged by the number of applicants.

"The city's going to have a good hard look at some very solid competitors," he said. "I haven't spent 22 years building this organization to see someone come along and make a wreck of it."

Owens said he thinks that a majority of the candidates are from Central and Southern California, "right down to San Diego."

And, he said, the list of candidates undoubtedly includes officials from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

For his part, Storey declined to discuss where the candidates are from or their ethnic and gender mix.

Storey said the Shannon firm advertised in law enforcement and related publications for a new Oxnard police chief and also consulted with law enforcement leaders for recommendations.

"We talk to leading chiefs around the state and the nation to see if anyone comes to mind," he said.

Candidates received a four-page brochure designed by the Shannon firm. Among other things, it described the job's salary range--$75,000 to $109,000 a year--and associated perquisites.

It also talked about local issues, including Oxnard's climbing crime rate.

Historically, Oxnard has had Ventura County's highest crime rate. In 1991, the city's overall serious crime rate jumped 18% compared to the previous year. Robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries showed big gains.

Moreover, federal and local law enforcement officials have said that the city is a major drug trafficking center for Ventura County and Central California.

Declared the brochure:

"Whether it be gang activity, drug abuse and trafficking, assaults or vandalism, crime committed by young people is on the rise.

"Much of this crime is committed by young people indigenous to Oxnard, but some is caused by outside influences such as gangs and drug traffickers from other communities."

In recognizing that about 57% of Oxnard's population is Latino, the pamphlet said the city's Police Department must "ensure that minorities feel as comfortable and as confident using police services as do majority citizens."

Manuel Lopez, the only Latino member of Oxnard's City Council, said he has told Storey that if the next police chief "happened to be Latino, it would be great."

"But primarily, we want someone who is sensitive to the population, who can communicate with the population."

Lopez said he gives Owens high marks as police chief.

Owens' concept of community-oriented policing--police working with local residents to solve problems instead of reacting to crime--has been an innovative idea, he said.

The next chief, he said, must carry on this tradition of a close association between the community and its police force.

"We cannot have a Police Department that's an occupation army," Lopez said. "We need to have a department that the community is confident in."

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