Cmdr. Jim Fryhoff is throwing his hat into the ring after ten years of uncontested sheriff’s races in Ventura County. He will fight for votes against the incumbent, Sheriff Bill Ayub, in the July 2022 election.
In an interview with the Guardian, Fryhoff shared his goals for policing. At the forefront is strengthening relationships between the police department and the community.
“I believe in strong partnerships with policing and our community,” says Fryhoff, who has been with the police department for nearly 31 years. “We’re not different than the community; we are part of our community. We live here, we have our families here, we want this community to be as safe as you all do, and we need to do it together, not as a separate entity that’s been sent in to take over a territory.”
Fryhoff has served various cities in Ventura County and filled leadership positions from assistant chief and commander chief of Thousand Oaks to the adjutant, working directly for Ventura County sheriffs Brooks and Dean. In 2015, his department selected him to attend the FBI Academy — a ten-week training in Quantico, Virginia — as the first officer to represent the organization since 1974.
During his time in the police department, Fryhoff helped develop programs to educate and equip the community, including active shooter training for citizens, an anti-bullying campaign for fifth graders, and threat assessment programs to prevent school shootings. Last year, he held Zoom meetings to educate youth on the role of and reason for policing.
“For a lot of our youth, in particular, they don’t understand what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, and so they just need to have it explained to them,” he says. “That type of communication is paramount to build trust and understanding in our communities. … When we have these strong partnerships, the community can be very supportive, which helps the officers be even better.”
The Murder of a Partner
Fryhoff’s commitment to honor and service passed through fire when, in 1996, his partner, Peter Gary, was murdered, leaving Gary’s wife a widow and his three-year-old daughter fatherless. Every year after the incident, “Uncle Jim,” as Gary’s daughter, Gabby, called Fryhoff, would visit with the family during national police week. When Gabby was old enough, Fryhoff told her about her father’s death.
“I told her what happened and that I was there,” he says. “I didn’t go into the graphic detail that I experienced, but it was important for her to know how I knew her dad and what happened that day. After talking to her, we formed a very, very strong bond.”
With her mom’s approval, Gabby moved in with the Fryhoff family — including his wife and two daughters — while attending Moorpark College and working at the police station.
“I just helped guide her the best I could,” Fryhoff says. “We’ve maintained a strong relationship since then.”
Gabby now has two sons of her own — her firstborn, named after her dad, and her second son, Mateo James, named after Fryhoff.
“I’m very proud of the woman she’s become, thankful that I was able to be part of her life, and I’m hoping that Pete’s proud of what I’ve been able to do to help shape his daughter,” Fryhoff says.
Aiming for Better Communication
If elected Sheriff, Fryhoff intends to provide regular and updated training for deputies and address internal issues voiced by the deputies union.
According to a press release by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Association, the organization believes Sheriff Ayub “has struggled to hit the mark in communicating a clear mission to his employees, lacks personable interaction with his immediate team and departments throughout the county, and has failed to elevate strategies and systems across the county to improve safety for all community members.” The association board unanimously voted to support Fryhoff.
John von Collin, owner of VC Defense in Thousand Oaks, knows a number of sheriff’s deputies and supports Fryhoff’s run for sheriff.
He brings “more of a rank and file kind of mindset and support,” von Collin says, noting that he has heard of a number of complaints about the way the department is presently being led.
As word of Fryhoff’s decision to run for sheriff spread through the department, Sheriff Ayub transferred Fryhoff from his public position as police chief of Thousand Oaks to a position in the detention centers. Fryhoff chooses to see the situation as a chance to build relationships with members of the department.
“I’m getting an opportunity to learn everything there is to know about our large division in the sheriff’s office,” he says, “to work with all the employees there and the great work that they’re doing to keep those who are in our care safe. Working to make sure that the programs they have inside the facility do what they can to help keep people from ‘recidivating’ and coming back into custody.”
With the election just under a year away, Fryhoff is raising funds and will continue to make the case for his leadership in the coming months.
“My vision is developing those community partnerships, making sure we’re recruiting, retaining and promoting a diverse group of employees where everybody knows they have an opportunity to be successful,” he says.