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A comment from a former California Highway Patrol Lieutenant

by on August 2, 2011

I thought this was a good comment from a former “peace” officer.
Comment Submitted on 2011/08/01 at 2:50 pm

I’m a retired**** Quartzsite on our long drives between Tucson and Central California. **************. I’ve taken a keen interest in Arizona politics, immigration, and law enforcement issues. Because of what I perceive as a less than favorable climate in Quartzsite, at least partially fostered by Police Chief Jeff Gilbert and his “posse”, I think we will forgo those stops and either stop in Blythe, before we reach Quartzsite, or stretch it a bit further and stop at one of the truck stops or travel centers further down the road. I especially do not want my daughter stopping there alone.

Second, we own a motor home and, in each of the last few years, have spent a few days in Quartzsite during the winter shows. Once again, because of what I perceive as an unprofessional attitude by the Police Chief, who seems more intent on pushing people’s buttons and seeing if he can get a response worthy of an arrest for Disorderly Conduct, refusing to disperse, or other public peace violations, I think we’ve made our last trip to the “Q” until if, and when, there is different leadership in the Quartzsite Police Department. I will encourage anyone and everyone I know to do the same. Even with my years of experience in law enforcement, and knowledge of criminal and constitutional law, powers of arrest, and use of force issues, I don’t want to expose myself or my family to the risk of a run in with what I perceive to be a less than professional police chief or his remaining “yes men”.

Last, as a retired *** Lieutenant who, on any given watch, has supervised far more personnel than Chief Gilbert has on his entire department, I am astounded at the apparent lack of ethics, professionalism, leadership, and supervisory skills he has displayed. What in the heck is he thinking half the time? Was he absent when they taught ethics and professionalism at the academy?

In my former department, any number of the actions that the Jackson/Lewis “investigator” dismissed as minor pranks would be worthy of demotion or even termination. The investigator recommends, “a course on harassment and discrimination issues in the workplace and ….management and sensitivity training.” Imagine that, Jackson/Lewis suggests “harassment, discrimination, management, and sensitivity training” , which they just happen to offer and will give for a fee.

That aside, by the time you reach the position of Chief executive, or even first line management, of any law enforcement agency, anywhere, you should not only be an expert on harassment and discrimination issues but you should be teaching your employees and conducting your own in-service-training classes as well. It would seem that what we have here is a classic example of the Peter Principle in that, “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

In regard to the alleged “investigation” undertaken by the Jackson/Lewis LLP law firm, the city of Quartzsite got the whitewash they bought and paid for. My observations are that Jackson/Lewis does not specialize in the special needs of law enforcement internal affairs investigations. Rather, they specialize in risk management for corporations and municipalities , limiting the damage once offenses have been committed. They list “union avoidance” as one of their specialties. Why in world would you hire a union busting law firm when you are conducting an investigation of claims of misconduct, by unionized law enforcement officers, against their management/supervisor? Is it therefor surprising that their investigation is at odds with the concerns of AZCOPS in regard to the conduct of Chief Gilbert? Per the Jackson/Lewis website, “When complaints arise, we work with clients to take incisive action to effect solutions that minimize costs and maximize results. It would seem that this whole “investigation” was based upon limiting the city’s vicarious liability for the Chief’s actions by saying, “We did something”. It’s always about the money.”

In like manner, it would seem that the “investigator” assigned by Jackson/Lewis is ill equipped to handle what is, in effect, the highly specialized needs of a police internal affairs investigation. Her biography states, “…..focuses her practice on handling a variety of matters in DEFENSE OF EMPLOYERS and MUNICIPALITIES in the areas of harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and retaliation and has a particular emphasis on restaurant and retail clients.” (Restaurant and retail clients?) My impression of the “investigation” is that this was clearly a DEFENSE of Chief Gilbert and the City of Quartzsite from start to finish. Rather than an investigation, it reads like a “he said, she said” dispute resolution with the “investigator” alone making the subjective decisions as to who is being truthful and what does, and does not, rise to the level of misconduct.

Because of the unique nature of the job, and the fact that law enforcement officers MUST be held to the highest ethical standards, the threshold for behavior that constitutes misconduct is justifiably lower for peace officers. This is why an investigation of this nature should be conducted by a competent state law enforcement agency….most notably the Attorney General’s office. As I noted before, and even based upon a weak investigation and biased findings of the “investigation” Chief Gilbert would have been subject to discipline and probably termination had he been employed by the *** or any of the agencies for whom I’ve worked.

I can’t fathom how bad things must have gotten in order to motivate not one, but ten Quartzsite Police Department employees, nine of them sworn peace officers, to sign, and publicly submit a vote of no confidence in their Chief. With the full knowledge of what his reaction might be, up to and including the loss of their jobs, why would they do this? Why would they make claims that their Chief was, in fact, violating Arizona and Federal law via harassment, selective enforcement, and misuse of police powers and resources? They have no vested interest in being less than truthful in bringing these charges against their Chief, except perhaps to avoid being implicated in illegal activity by following his illegal orders, whereas he has the vested interest of being less than truthful to evade culpability for his own actions. If I see enough smoke, I’m inclined to believe there is a real fire behind it.

Above all, and without a doubt, there has been a serious lack of leadership at the Quartzsite Police Department and an erosion of public trust. These reasons alone are due cause to terminate Jeff Gilbert’s employment as Chief of Police and any responsible, and functional, municipal government would have done this long ago. For crying out loud, ten city employees, nine of them sworn police officers, have basically flushed their careers down the drain because that was preferable, and more honorable, than continuing to work for this man. Of course, the honorable thing would be for Jeff Gilbert to look at this honestly, and introspectively, admit that he has failed, and resign.

I’ve viewed dozens of the videotaped incidents between Chief Gilbert and members of the public. In some, I’m sure he’s trying to “push someones button” and incite them into responding to his provocations. I absolutely despise this type of policing and feel it’s one of the most unethical behaviors in which a police officer can engage.

These would include his actions at Council Meetings, where he seems to think the “orders” of Council Members (but not the mayor) have precedence over the rule of law, as well as incidents that he alone seems to instigate.

I observed him move to the front of the council chambers, while the AZCOPS representative spoke, with a smug, self satisfied, look on his face and with no other apparent motivation than to harass and intimidate that speaker. His presence, attitude, and demeanor do more to incite the crowd than than the actions of any other individual. I then saw him order his officers to clearly arrest the wrong person…who had, himself, in fact been assaulted.

I’ve seen him go to an RV park, with his faithful minion at his side, with apparently no other motivation other than to harass the resident manager and tell him that he (the Chief) will go into the property any time he desires. By his actions and demeanor it was transparent that he was trying to “get a rise” out of the individual and incite him into an arrestable offense. While he probably has the legal right to go into the park anytime he needs to, for official business, he did not need to repeatedly rub it in the citizens nose. He also could have come, said his piece, and moved on. Instead, he lingers, getting in and out of his car, repeatedly imposing his physical presence and making inflammatory (almost inciteful) statements.

I saw him stand at the front of the council chambers ranting about what he perceives as the warning signs of domestic terrorism, when his very actions and words are the most likely catalyst I’ve seen toward same. I read between the lines when he stared the mayor down and told him, “I am passing this warning on to you.” I didn’t read it as a warning, but as a thinly veiled threat. I’m sure Mayor Foster saw it the same way.

These are just a few of the examples with videotapes online. How many more are there that have not been videotaped?

I started writing this before I had seen Doug MacEachern’s column in the Arizona Republic, “The ‘sane’ person in the room can be a matter of perspective” I have to agree with his closing words, “That’s serious talk. Grim. Sober. Scary in an “angry man with a gun” way”

I used to frequently remind officers on my watch that their ID cards said, “The person identified herein is a State Peace Officer as defined in ********* Penal Code Section XXX.2..” and that since the first word in that title was “Peace” their primary responsibility, above all others, was keeping the peace. I assume that Arizona Peace Officer ID’s carry some sort of similar language.

Chief Gilbert seems to have forgotten this and I can only hope that the ongoing DPS investigation will very forcefully remind him of it.

I don’t care about the underlying politics behind all of this, I only care about what I perceive as the police misconduct, the taint it puts on the brotherhood of law enforcement officers everywhere, and the distrust it fosters in police officers in Quartzsite and beyond.

I thought about this long and hard. I would like to sign this, really I would, but my name is withheld due to the ability, and reported propensity, for the subject herein to access law enforcement databases and subject myself, or my family (one of whom lives 600 miles from home…in Arizona), to possible harassment.

  1. Merely wanna state that this is extremely helpful, Thanks for taking your time to write this. “One man with courage is a majority.” by Thomas Jefferson.

  2. Jimk2500 permalink

    “I observed him move to the front of the council chambers, while the AZCOPS representative spoke, with a smug, self satisfied, look on his face and with no other apparent motivation than to harass and intimidate that speaker. His presence, attitude, and demeanor do more to incite the crowd than than the actions of any other individual. I then saw him order his officers to clearly arrest the wrong person…who had, himself, in fact been assaulted.”

    I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who thought this, thank you for your observations on this. Fortunately, I don’t think the ilk of Mr. Gilbert would intimidate an honest cop. In the final analysis, I believe it was Gilbert’s feelings of guilt that caused him to do this.

    Very inciteful and well spoken, thanks.

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