A social media post detailing a woman’s treatment by two Ojai deputies prompted dozens of responses, including one from the city’s chief of police.
Earlier this month, 22-year-old Ojai resident Lily Vasquez posted to a public Facebook forum for Ojai citizens of the encounter with the deputies that led to her being taken to the Ventura County jail for drug tests.
The narrative was posted shortly after 4 p.m. on Aug. 3 and received more than 50 comments and replies within two hours, some of which offered amateur legal advice while others offered sympathies and expressed anger.
Ojai Police Chief James Fryhoff advised Vasquez to file a formal complaint, posting web links and instructions on how to do so.
“I do not tolerate abuses of authority, and I expect our officers to be professional, courteous, and lawful in their conduct,” Fryhoff wrote. “If you have had a negative experience where you feel the officers have not handled it properly, there is a mechanism for you to voice your complaints.”
In his post time-stamped 6:20 p.m. on Aug. 3, the chief said he would make sure the incident was investigated.
“We want you to feel free to walk at night, not fearful,” he wrote.
Fryhoff said he was compelled to respond to Vasquez’s informal narrative due to its high visibility.
“It took such a public forum,” he said.
According to Vasquez, she was approached by an Ojai deputy around 10 p.m. Aug. 2 as she was walking along El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks.
She said she was given a series of tests after which she was placed in the back of a police car and transported to the Ventura County jail where she was told to take a urine test and a round of eye tests.
The 22-year-old was eventually returned home around 1 a.m. after the tests came back clean, she said.
Since then, Vasquez said she and Fryhoff spoke one-on-one regarding the incident and noted that the call was constructive.
He was very nice and he listened to my concerns, she said.
Nevertheless, on Aug. 4, Vasquez filed a formal citizen’s complaint, one of seven that the Ojai Police Department has received in 2017, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. She also spoke about her experience at the Aug. 8 Ojai City Council meeting.
Fryhoff said that he has since spoken with his staff regarding the adverse effects of arrests with innocent people on the public’s trust.
“What happened to Lily and a couple of others is very unfortunate,” Fryhoff wrote Aug. 3, referring to others who alleged similar experiences detailed in Vasquez’s original post.
“As you know Ojai is battling a drug problem like many other cities across the country. We are doing our best with our limited tools to address those issues and hopefully force those in need of treatment in that direction,” he wrote.
A urine examination is the only way to definitively know if a person has drugs in her system, Fryhoff said.
Samples can only be obtained by a deputy of the same sex as the arrestee. On the night of Vasquez’s arrest, the closest female deputy was in Ventura so they took her there, Fryhoff wrote in the post.
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