VC Star: Santa Paula police in crisis mode as Ventura County Sheriff's Office hires away 10 officers
Santa Paula PD is primed for a sheriff’s department office takeover. For years, the sheriff has been making proposals for the city to contract with the county.
Years ago, the old car-to-car channel, Ch. 4, was moved to Ch. 5, to create Ch. 4 as the “North” county frequency. The idea was that Fillmore and Ojai could be broken off Ch. 1 “West County” radio since no one could ever hear them except locally. Ojai is in a valley surrounded by mountains/foothills and Fillmore is deep inside the Santa Clara Valley, well away from the other cities.
Over a decade ago, everything went to all repeater traffic so the need for topographical accommodations to the radio network is smaller, but with the increase in traffic adding a new channel will help alleviate heavy radio traffic. Locals will know that East County has been on Ch. 3 for ages. So radio-wise, the channel is already there. In fact, this was intentionally done with the understanding that Santa Paula would eventually contract with the sheriff, though the chances circa 200_ seemed a lot greater than they turned out to be in the intervening years.
The new radio plan would look like:
Ch. 1 West County: Camarillo, David (Ventura/HQ) Station
Ch. 3 East County: Thousand Oaks, Moorpark
Ch. 4 North County: Ojai, Fillmore, Santa Paula
Fun fact: In the pre-all repeater days, I used to talk to one of my partners when he was working Fillmore by switching to (IIRC) Ch. 15 and using a simplex repeater on South Mountain. Then we upgraded to new radios all around and got a countywide repeater system, so everyone could hear everyone.
I don’t like SPPD and I don’t think departments that small should exist. SPPD doesn’t have a great reputation among local law enforcement and small agencies are mostly mediocre, as I’ve seen. But that’s neither here nor there and not the purpose of this post. No, the city council will have to stem the bleeding by paying officers what they’re worth, suffer substandard service, or contract with the sheriff. So far, local civic pride has been a factor and I’d imagine that right now it’s the only thing keeping Santa Paula separate agency.
When we think of catastrophic human events, it’s not often that we imagine they can happen in our own backyard. Despite being the author of books that literally prepare for a defense against civil unrest, I couldn’t imagine my native Ventura County, California, becoming the site of a high-profile incident.
On Sunday November 5, in the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks, a Jewish pro-Israel protestor was involved in an altercation of some sort with a pro-Palestinian protestor. The Jewish man somehow fell and struck his head; whether he just fell or was struck/pushed is a matter for the courts. This event has ignited local and national controversy over the current crisis in the Middle East and could serve as the igniting event of domestic unrest.
The victim’s memorial service was held at Temple Etz Chaim at Janss Rd. and the 23 freeway without incident. A suspect has been arrested on involuntary manslaughter charges, which might prove to be a catalyst for troublemaking. So far, the suspect has been cooperative but it isn’t him that the public should be worried about. Rather, it is outside agitators and terrorists that might exploit the situation for their own purposes.
Yes, “T. O.” is on the fringes of the Los Angeles metro as one of its suburbs, but the city is quite different from LA. It is a purple, predominately white, upper middle class city that has consistently been one of the safest large cities in America. The chances of some major social controversy erupting here seemed small, yet it happened. For those anti-California supremacists out there, I remind you that the people of Charlottesville, VA, or Kenosha, WI, never expected their towns would turn into the center of major civil unrest.
Any protests would likely be using the actual incident as an excuse to engage in civil disorder. We saw in 2020 the “causes” be supposed racism against blacks, George Floyd, and police brutality. In 2023, we are seeing protests and unrest over American support for Israel in the wake of the Hamas attack. It is possible that anti-Semitism wrapped up as “support for Palestinians” as a rallying cry. The incident and any prosecution would simply be a MacGuffin for protest.
Those concerned about emergencies or civil unrest (SHTF) need to do an area study of their location. I’ll leave it to Mike Shelby of Gray Zone Activity (and Forward Observer) to tell you how to do an area study, but I’d like to examine some important angles of intelligence preparedness. I’m going to skip over a lot of stuff, but where are the physical locations that are likely to experience unrest of some form should this explode into 2020-style unrest?
A benefit to this being real-world is that you can “follow along” so to speak and pull this all up on the map. In fact, I would encourage you to do so, which will allow you to better wargame your own scenarios where you live.
Potential protest locations
Additional points of concern:
The site of the incident as a subsequent protest location should be fairly obvious. As Sheriff Jim Fryhoff said in a press conference, the intersection itself is popular for protests because it is a high-traffic location where two large arterial streets converge near a freeway. It is a natural place to hold demonstrations for sheer visibility. Any significance it has is about being seen or symbolic to the incident.
The Government Center (courthouse), where a hearing or trial may be held, along with the fact that the jail (where the suspect is incarcerated) is located in the same complex. The advantage to a protest here is greater open space and symbolism, plus potential juror intimidation. The civic center also serves a similar symbolic purpose and is about two miles from the site of the incident.
But this incident happened in Thousand Oaks, 30 miles away! Why would anyone protest in Ventura over a homicide that happened elsewhere over a conflict on the other side of the planet? Well, Ventura is the county seat, where the courthouse is, and most importantly, where the jail is. The suspect will be booked in Ventura and arraigned just across the Government Center campus. Court houses and jails have been the natural foci of protests.
As for the sheriff’s station, a loss of legitimacy (or fear) of police can precipitate protests. We’ve seen plenty of examples of police being targeted for protests or overrunning the station. Also, a large protest could paralyze the station would hamper any operations in response to unrest. Freeway on/off-ramps are points of concern because protestors seeking to cause disruption have frequently walked on to the freeways to disrupt traffic.
Looting targets include the auto mall and the large, indoor Oaks Mall. There are also many strip and outdoors malls proximate to the incident location as well that could be targeted by roving rioters/looters. Additionally, should law enforcement in the area be overwhelmed with responding to a protest/riot, this would make homes and businesses all over the city vulnerable.
The number of participants in the main focus of events (riot/protest) wouldn’t be enough to create a citywide threat, nor would the local population pose much risk of riot, but LA is not far away. Looting-prone riff-raff and organized criminals might come up to exploit the situation. This is the situation that happened in 2020 where areas with riots became looting magnets that pulled in opportunists from all over the surrounding areas.
However, there are only two freeway access points into Ventura County from Los Angeles County and those are easily closed. With more manpower, the smaller roads that provide access can be closed, deterring most criminals who would have to be local or make a very wide detour.
With houses of worship and any other targets, the neighborhoods nearby could become targets. The North Ranch, Westlake Village, and TO Blvd.-adjacent neighborhoods could face spillover looting, vandalism, harassment, and perhaps even direct attack on homeowners. At the very minimum, there would be major traffic disruption, noise, and security concerns. Furthermore, given the hilly and brushy/wooded topography of the city, unintentional ignitions and arson make brushfires a concern as well.
To conclude, again it is not to say that anything will necessarily happen in Ventura County, but it certainly can. If not here, then it will happen in another community in the US for other reasons. Even if this only becomes my personal case study rather than international headlines, the principals can be and should be applied to where you live. It might not be rioting, but it could be looting or something else. Use your imagination and start thinking about what around you might serve as the focal point for events in a human disaster.
About the author: Don Shift is a veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and author of the Suburban Defense/Rural Home Defense series, a cop's guides to surviving riots, civil war, or SHTF.
So what do you do when a high-profile event with the potential to grow into a social conflagration happens in your small town? We’re seeing Jerusalem becoming a burdensome stone in cities all over the world. Though the current crisis du jour is Israel, in 2020 it was a drug addict, and in 2024 it’s likely to be WWIII and the election. Industrial-grade civil unrest can come to you.
Thousand Oaks, California, is on the far western fringe of the urban sprawl that makes up the Los Angeles Metro area. I grew up in that city and helped police it. It is as white-bread boring as it gets, the epitome of middle class. The only major criminal events of note were the Borderline shooting in 2018 and actress Amanda Bynes’ schizophrenic freak out.
That was until this weekend when a Jewish man somehow fell and struck his head on the pavement—it’s unclear if he was struck, pushed, or fell exactly, but it’s being called a homicide. The background is a pro-Palestinian protest was happening on the corner of Westlake and Thousand Oaks Boulevards. The Jewish victim came into contact with the Palestinian protestors and the events resulting in his death a day later ensued. Now my hometown and agency is national news.
The victim, quite frankly, fucked around and found out. That doesn't mean he should have been assaulted and die as a result, but basic personal security common sense dictates you don't get involved with opposing protesters. Doubly so if you are a Jew and they are protesting against Israel. Protesting was a risky thing and the victim never should have gone near the others.
The victim, Paul Kessler, I'm guessing assumed that he would be perfectly fine. Ventura County, after all, is a pretty chill place. He likely went in with a normalcy bias where he thought the worst that could happen was probably some yelling. I'm sure the suspect didn't intend to kill anyone either, but here we are. Doing stupid things in stupid places is a recipe for disaster, even if you've lived for decades in literally one of the safest cities in the country.
As for the exact events, those don’t matter for my readers. In times of turmoil, that an Archduke got assassinated does not matter when the troops begin to march. The odds of this event spiraling out of control until Thousand Oaks and the West Valley are in flames are not great. What is a possibility is that a pro-Israel rally or victim’s memorial is targeted by violent agitators and this leads to a violent confrontation. We saw how “peaceful protests” were coopted and spread beyond the initial goals of counter-protest or disrupting the original event.
Where the reader needs to be concerned is if something like this were to happen in their area. Not every reader lives in a tiny town miles from anything. What are the local catalysts that could lead to something like this in your backyard? For instance, the western San Fernando Valley and its outlying areas, like Thousand Oaks, have a relatively high population of Jews. International immigration in the LA area has also brought in many groups from the Middle East.
An area study would tell you things like the above. Perhaps in your case it might be radical activity on the commuter campus of the local state university in your county seat. What if militant environmentalists get wind of the big pipeline or other megaproject being built in your neck of the woods? “Stop Cop City” in Georgia or the Keystone XL pipeline are other examples. Again, what the spark happens to be is less important than the after effects.
For instance, let’s say that there is a pro-Israel protest at the Government Center in the county seat of Ventura. Deputies and the city police are called to mediate. However, counter-protestors show up and small confrontations, like as happened on Sunday, begin. Police mediate and keep things in control. Unfortunately, agitators show up and begin engaging the police, before harassing the crowd and vandalizing nearby property. It could end here with a skirmish or the police response could generate further controversy among the Far Left, creating an anti-police insurrection in a SoCal suburb.
That’s what you need to be prepared for. While it’s impossible to predict flashpoints (who woulda thought an old man falling down—grossly oversimplified, I know—would move the Arab-Israeli conflict to Thousand Oaks and put the city in the national news), the follow-on effects have to be planned for. The second order effect here is potentially disruptive protests. Again, we have ample examples of where that could go. While probably nothing will happen on that front locally here because of that, it bears watching.
“It” can happen to you in your small town. Now whether it is a Biblical feud, a drug addict becoming a cause célèbre, or a economic collapse leading to rioting, you need to be prepared. Living in a peaceful suburb or in a place where “nothing happens” is no guarantee. Remember, we prepare for contingencies, not certainties.
Now plenty of readers will take a dump on this because it happened in “Commiefornia” and in the suburbs of LA, but that doesn’t mean anything of substance. Even red and purple states have had high profile incidents that kicked off. But hey, Texas is trending purple. What I’m saying is this can happen anywhere and it has.
As always, since this event has the potential to blow up, I do not speak for VCSO, nor am I taking sides in the matter.
Note: this an adaptation from my non-fiction book Suburban Warfare: A cop's guide to surviving a civil war, SHTF, or modern urban combat, available on Amazon.