Paso Robles criminalizing homelessness
October 29, 2012
My name is Jon Tatro and I have been a police officer with the city of Paso Robles for more than 25 years. I am the officer who reported PRPD for illegal ticket quotas. I currently have a lawsuit against the city for whistleblower retaliation. This article is not about me; it is about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I only represent myself with this article and in no way represent the city, police department, or any other officer or employee of the city.
I have enclosed an excerpt from my most recent annual evaluation written by Sgt. Tod Rehner and approved by city hall and acting Chief Robert Burton. Sgt. Rehner suggested our shift have a “shift project” which was dealing with transients. This is what Sgt. Rehner wrote:
“Another example of Officer Tatro’s attitude came about during the shift’s ‘shift project’ discussion. I brought up the recent problems that transient subjects were presenting to businesses in terms of loitering, trespassing, and theft, and in turn the impact on law enforcement through higher call volumes.
“Officer Tatro was adamantly opposed to contacting transient subjects because he believed that we were just picking on people because they were ‘dirty and smelled.’ He further said that they really did not do anything and we rarely received legitimate calls in regard to transient problems.”
“Dispatcher (name withheld) was in briefing and quickly informed Officer Tatro that dispatch received numerous calls per day regarding complaints surrounding transients. I pointed out to Officer Tatro that calls such as public intoxication, sleeping within city limits, assaults, and thefts among other issues, were directly related to transient populations.
“Officer Tatro did not agree and refused to participate in the project. The shift ultimately chose a different project. I was surprised that Officer Tatro’s opinion was so far removed from what was actually occurring with this group of people.”
It should be noted it is not against the law to be a transient and the Supreme Court has ruled “loitering” is not a crime unless it is associated with other criminal action. To target “transients” is to profile people based on their socio-economic status.
I have found in my long career that criminals come in every color, race and socio-economic class. We call these people “criminals.” The reason lady justice is blind folded is because the Constitution was intended to give equal treatment under the law regardless of how you are dressed or if you carry your home in a backpack.
The Jim Crow laws made it illegal for black people to “loiter” in front of businesses because it made their white customers “feel uncomfortable.” The “transients” have a First Amendment right to wave their cardboard signs in a public place with very few exceptions, whether we like it or not.
I am not a bleeding heart homeless advocate; as a matter of fact I personally hate to see able-bodied people beg for money when they could be productive citizens. I am a U.S. Constitution advocate.
My personal opinion cannot dictate how I pursue criminals. If people are publicly intoxicated, arrest them; if they trespass, arrest them; if they commit any crime, call them a criminal and arrest them. If you get sleepy, take a five-hour energy because according to Sgt. Rehner, “Sleeping within the city limits” is a crime.
Other than criminal street gangs, Hells Angels, drug cartels etc., the police should never look at people as a “group.” There are many transients who do not commit crimes, and bring a lot of money to our community. We call them tourists. I’m glad Jesus isn’t around Paso Robles because he would certainly be targeted as a “transient group,” being born in a stable and all.
The city and police department administration are trying to portray me as a “lazy malcontent” for a variety of reasons and have made it clear my career with PRPD is done and I have no future. The facts are the facts, the truth is the truth and that is all I can live by. Hate me , love me, I don’t care, I can look at myself in the mirror every day and not be ashamed. I am far from perfect, but I have never dishonored my profession or the Constitution of the United States.
Some PRPD administrators and most officers strive to serve the citizens of Paso Robles as best they can under the circumstances. It has been my honor to serve the amazing citizens of Paso Robles for 25-plus years.