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Jim Barrett

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Steady Your Spooky Horse
Jim Barrett  More Info

Ma Duncan
Jim Barrett  More Info

About the Ventura County Sheriff's Department

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. Seventeen 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 Ventura County Sheriff’s Department  is organized into four large entities: Detention Services; Patrol Services; Special Services; and, Support Services.


The Special Services includes specialized units such as Air Unit, Major Crimes, Narcotics; Intelligence, Bomb Unit, SWAT, Forensic Sciences and Information Systems. The Patrol Services is divided into four geographic commands, each led by a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Commander.  Two of the Commanders serve as chiefs of police for cities that contract law enforcement services from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.




Captain Jim Barrett (ret.) is an expert in the world of police horses.  During his 30 year career in law enforcement he was a trainer, supervisor and the manager of one of the most successful mounted units in Southern California. During his tenure with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department Mounted Enforcement Unit he has seen the unit grow from three original riders, increasing to 25 riders who work several hundred details each year.


Jim is one of the founding board members of the California Mounted Officers Association (CMOA); a statewide organization dedicated to the betterment of the mounted officer.    Jim Barrett is the author of three books Steady Your Spooky Horse, A Manual for the Mounted Police and Ma Duncan.


According to the book description of Steady Your Spooky Horse, “Here are the stimulus training methods used by mounted police officers to teach their horses to face any situation. When this training is competently done, it works, and that is proven every day of the week by the thousands of police horses successfully working the streets throughout the world.”


According to the book description of A Manual for the Mounted Police, it covers: How to set standards for your mounted unit; How to select a potential police horse; What Patterns of Consistency are in police horse training; Ways of testing the police horse; and, The Intellectual fit of Dressage riding.


According to the book description of Ma Duncan, “Elizabeth Ann Duncan was a future daughter-in-law’s worst nightmare. Filled with deep-rooted instability, jealousy and obsession toward her son Frank, an obsession that far surpassed normal motherly love, Ms. Duncan, known to the world as "Ma Duncan," planned the murder of her pregnant daughter in law during the 1950’s.  Detailing this heinous crime, Jim Barrett delves into Elizabeth Duncan’s turbulent past, reflecting on her numerous marriages, financial fraud, suicidal tendencies and above all, her unnatural obsession toward her son and her hatred toward her daughter-in-law. As the story is revealed, Barrett creates a work that is frighteningly captivating, emphasizing the fragility of the human mind and the extent to which one woman went to fulfill her obsession.


Written with vivid details chronicling this infamous murder, "Ma Duncan" not only uncovers gaps that have been left exposed in Elizabeth Duncan’s story, but incorporates interviews, pictures and Barrett’s own expertise in criminal law enforcement to complete the whole story.”


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