Ventura County sheriff race highly contested

VENTURA, Calif. The campaign signs are out in force as Geoff Dean and Dennis carpenter face off in the first contested race for /*Ventura County Sheriff*/ in three decades.

"What we don't have now is collaborative effort between all levels in the department. One of my first orders would be to bring everybody together and do a top to bottom review of the whole agency," said Geoff Dean, Ventura County Sheriff candidate.

The fierce fight for the top job has divided the law enforcement community. Carpenter is endorsed by /*Sheriff Bob Brooks*/ and most of the department's top managers. Dean has the support of the deputies union and most city police chiefs. Adding to the split, Dean's controversial firing in 2008 when Brooks removed him as a chief deputy. Last year, Dean was rehired by order of the County Civil Service Commission.

"I think the first thing we need to do is reach across the aisle for lack of a better phrase and start mending the organization," said Dennis Carpenter, Ventura County Sheriff candidate.

Dean and Carpenter are both sheriff department veterans of more than 30 years and both agree the deep budget cuts are a top concern for the department.

"Next year, we'll see somewhere between three and eight million dollar hit to us again so we go back and we sit down again and see what else we can live without," said Carpenter.

The two candidates also agree on what they believe residents feel is the biggest problem for law enforcement.

"I think they're worried about gang violence and youth violence and the impact that it has on their safety in their everyday lives," said Dean.

While they may agree on several key issues, the difference lies in the details. Carpenter says it's his leadership style. Dean says it's his pledge to keep politics out of public safety.

Most polls show Dean and Carpenter neck and neck and with just 28 days to go until voters cast their ballots, it's going to be a fight to the finish.

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