Bob Owens passed away on May 14, 2006. He was an early member of LEAP and did what ever was asked of him, making a trip to Houston, doing
radio shows, writing op-eds and just staying involved wherever he could. He will be sadly missed by LEAP.
Retired Chief of Police
“We have squandered billions of dollars and untold numbers of lives addressing a medical and societal problem using the criminal law.”
Retired Chief of Police Bob Owens spent 38 years in active law enforcement, receiving his initiation with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 1954. Bob’s earliest encounter with drug users occurred during the typical assignment of new deputies as guards in the Los Angeles County Jail. He soon requested assignment to the East Los Angeles Station, known as a heroin trafficking area. In the next few years Bob and his long time, radio car partner became something of a nemesis in that station, accounting for record-breaking numbers of arrested heroin addicts. After thirteen years with the Sheriff’s Department Bob achieved the rank of Lieutenant before successfully competing for the position of Chief of Police for the City of San Fernando, California. He remained there for three years, then was chosen to be chief of police in the city of Oxnard, California. After over 22 years in Oxnard, Bob retired.
In both San Fernando and Oxnard, problems attributed to narcotics resulted in substantial allocation of department resources, amounting to hundreds of thousands of tax dollars. As the problems evolved, so did Bob’s posture concerning the general problems of addiction. In 1971, for example, the convergence of California law and the presence of an alcoholic rehabilitation facility in Oxnard enabled the Department to begin taking persons found to be “drunk in public” to the Twelve-Step House, a uniquely successful alternative to the traditional “drunk tank” in the city jail. He also became involved with another rehabilitation program, dubbed the Seven-Step House, aimed at helping prison parolees. As distinguished from the traditional, “nail ’em and jail ’em” police chiefs, Bob ran his departments as problem solving organizations truly prepared to protect and serve the public good. His recognition by the California Trial Lawyers Association as 1984 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, commendations from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Candelaria American Indian Council, and twice receiving the Trophy for bringing state and national recognition to Oxnard, marked a successful career.
Bob Owens’ message concerning drug abuse was summed up in his first speech for LEAP: “This country is long overdue in recognizing that not only have we lost the “war” on drugs but we have squandered billions of dollars and untold numbers of lives addressing a medical and societal problem using the criminal law.”