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Los Angeles Times
BYLINE: From Times Staff Writers

Port Hueneme, CA

Eighty-four plastic bags of cocaine have been discovered missing from a Port Hueneme police evidence locker, and the department's sole undercover narcotics officer has been suspended without pay.

The Ventura County district attorney's office is reviewing all the cases the officer has been involved with this year and will likely decide next week whether charges are to be filed against him, a spokesman said.

It was not one of the finer weeks in John Jenks' career.

The 31-year-old Ojai native had twice been named Port Hueneme's Officer of the Year. Last year, he also served as president of the Ventura County Narcotics Officers Assn. His colleagues were stunned as investigators pored through court records and conducted interviews about a man known to many as an exemplary officer. "The shock is starting to wear off a little bit," said Port Hueneme Police Chief Bob Anderson. "It's the kind of thing we just don't want to believe."

Jenks, who has neither been arrested nor charged, could not be reached for comment. However, his attorney, George C. Eskin of Ventura, acknowledged that Jenks has experienced "problems associated with drug abuse," which he is attempting to resolve with professional help. "A narcotics undercover officer is required to live a life of deceit and deception and treachery and betrayal," said Eskin. "I think that creates incredible stress and pressure for a person who is basically honest.

"What we have with John Jenks is a real human tragedy. He was a very special person and that's what makes it especially tragic. He was a guy on the right side of the law, and he fell victim to drugs. It tells a lot about how insidious drugs can be -- especially cocaine."

Drug Charges Dismissed

Eskin said he has received about three dozen telephone calls from prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and law-enforcement officials "asking not only that I convey to him their good wishes and rapport, but volunteering to help him in any way they can."

Suspicion centered on Jenks after a Ventura Superior Court judge last week was forced to dismiss a variety of felony drug charges against a suspect for lack of evidence.

Jenks had hecked the evidence at issue, 84 small bags of cocaine valued at about $1,700, out of the Port Hueneme evidence locker Oct. 2, according to court documents.

According to the documents, police obtained a warrant to search Jenks' house Nov. 11, where they found what they believed were ripped up evidence bags from the case and, in another location, some cocaine.

Braden McKinley, chief investigator on the case for the district attorney, said his office probably will decide next week whether to file charges against Jenks.

Jenks began his police career 12 years ago with the Ojai Police Department and joined the Port Hueneme Police Department in 1979. He was an undercover narcotics officer with the department for three years. He won the Officer of the Year honor twice "because he's extremely capable and very intelligent with regard to his functions," Anderson said. "He was well-liked because he's awfully helpful to everybody else. If someone needed advice and instruction, he was always there."

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