PROGRAM FOR TEENS IN DOUBT; SURVEY TO GAUGE SUPPORT.
Cops 'n' Jocks, a nationwide program that seeks to nurture trust between teen-age athletes and police, is undergoing a crisis of confidence as organizers question the support they are receiving from the Santa Paula Police Department.
The governing board of the nonprofit Cops 'n' Jocks has started an investigation in which it plans to survey department administrators, officers and staff to gauge their support for the program.
Cops 'n' Jocks was founded in the area five years ago by Santa Paula Reserve Officer Rich Randolph and operates under the auspices of the department he works for.
But Randolph said that recent events have cast doubt on the department's commitment to the program, which has 270 officers from agencies throughout the nation working with high school sports teams.
Santa Paula Police Cmdr. Bob Gonzales said much of the dispute began with Randolph and his haste to expand the program.
``It's a good program and we've supported it from the inception,'' Gonzales said. ``(Randolph) is a very anxious young man and he wants to see things move forward.''
Randolph's first complaint is that no one from the department other than himself made an appearance in San Diego a few months ago when Cops 'n' Jocks was recognized as the nonprofit crime prevention program of the year.
Since Santa Paula Police Chief Walt Adair had nominated the program for the award, the absence of any department brass at the ceremony troubled potential sponsors such as the state Department of Justice, which was considering an offer of grant money, Randolph said.
Gonzales said department administrators were given last-minute notice of the ceremony and were thus unable to send a representative.
Randolph also says that after private security firm Protection One donated a car that was to become a Cops 'n' Jocks ``mascot,'' department administrators reneged on an earlier pledge to pay for the vehicle's insurance.
It was only when city officials put pressure on police officials that the department insured the car, which will be displayed at team practices and games across the state, he said.
``We were just glad to get our vehicle and (getting insurance for it) was basically an uphill battle for three weeks in which the city had to step in,'' Randolph said. ``That raised major concerns about the support we are receiving from within the department.''
According to Gonzalez, Randolph failed to follow proper city procedure for getting the car added to the police fleet.
``He just can't receive a donation from somebody and say, `With this magic baton I'm going to bless this car and make it part of the fleet,' '' Gonzalez said.
The Cop 'n' Jocks governing board survey of the department's support for the program is expected to take about two weeks, after which Randolph said the program board may consider realigning itself with one of four other police agencies that have expressed interest in being the program's sponsor.
Those agencies are the Oxnard Police Department, which is already a part sponsor, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, and police departments in Fontana and Mesquite, Nev.
Meanwhile Randolph said that the Ventura County Grand Jury has asked him to make a two-hour presentation about the program in January. Among questions on the mind of grand jurors are why the Ventura Police Department has withdrawn from the program and why the Simi Valley Police Department has never signed up.
The Board of Supervisors is also planning to look into the program early next year, Randolph said.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 27, 1997|
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