The Office of the Sheriff for Ventura County began in February, 1873, with the election of Sheriff Frank Peterson. What began as a duty to collect taxes and catch horse thieves has evolved significantly as the county has changed and grown. Nineteen other Sheriffs have held the Office of the Sheriff since 1873. The administration of justice (and more criminals going to trial rather than the dispensing of “frontier justice”) became more sophisticated during the late 1800s. Sheriff E.G. McMartin, a popular and upright man who was elected Sheriff five times, was the first and only Sheriff killed in the line of duty while apprehending a murder suspect in 1921.
Public hangings and bootlegging arrests gave way to police practices and procedures commonly recognized today. The modern era of Ventura County law enforcement began in 1959 with Sheriff William Hill. The 1970s saw the genesis of community involvement programs like Community Orientated Policing and Problem Solving (C.O.P.P.S.), DARE and Neighborhood Watch. Today, the cornerstone of county policing is the partnership between the Sheriff’s Office and county residents.