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Ojai Police Chief Moved to Post at County Jail


OJAI — Jim Barrett, police chief in this small community through an eventful six years, was reassigned to an administrative post at the County Jail this week in a routine rotation of captains at the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

Eleven captains moved to new positions, including Gary Pentis, captain of patrol services at the Camarillo police station, who replaces Barrett.

Captains are reassigned every two to three years, said Eric Nishimoto, department spokesman. This rotation took several months to plan because it involved an unusually large number of captains, he added.

Barrett, 52, a 28-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department, served longer in Ojai than any other captain since the city began contracting with the department for police services in 1980.

Barrett's stint saw several crimes that rocked the close-knit town, starting with searches for two serial rapists in his first month on the job, the execution-style murder of Deputy Peter Aguirre in 1996, the 1997 beating death of Ventura resident Nick Dowey at an out-of-control party, the murder of Ojai teen Kali Manley and the search for her body over Christmas 1998, and the arrest and conviction of Barrett's son, Jonathan, 18, for accidentally starting the 4,300-acre Ranch fire in December 1999.

Jonathan Barrett and another teenager were spared jail time and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service, pay $150 in restitution and were placed on five years probation.

Jim Barrett was responsible for creating several programs for at-risk youth in the Ojai Valley, including a Police Activities League program in Oak View, which received a $600,000 state grant in April and draws 70 kids a day.

He also got a third patrol car assigned to the valley, which improved response times in the west end, and he opened the Oak View Resource Center, which is run out of a donated storefront and manned by volunteers.

Residents considered him an approachable police chief who often patrolled as a regular beat officer.

"People in the Ojai Valley like to think they can call up the captain of the station and tell him whatever's on their mind," Barrett said Tuesday.

The city plans to honor Barrett with a going-away bash Sept. 22 at Soule Park. Tickets are $10. For information, call 646-1414.

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