Police chief under fire for retaliating against her men

February 2, 2012

Chief Lisa Solomon

By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN

(UPDATE: Officer Jon Tatro filed a lawsuit Friday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.)

A Paso Robles police officer, who says his numerous attempts to force the chief to run the department in a legal and productive manner were rebuffed, filed a claim against the city in December and plans to follow up with a lawsuit.

Officer Jon Tatro, an officer and union steward, had complained to Chief Lisa Solomon and city management that command staff had mandated that each officer write at least 10 tickets a month, and preferably 14 or more, in order to avoid disciplinary action, according to the lawsuit and interviews with several officers.

“A ticket a day will keep the sergeant away,” several officers said was a common phrase used in the department.

In addition to the quota system, officers were told the tickets they wrote had to be for hazardous moving violations, such as speeding, running a red light, or stop sign or right of way issues — offenses that could result in high ticket revenues.

In March, after city officials took no action on Tatro’s complaints, he went to the Paso Robles branch of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court in full uniform with his gun. He informed court personnel about the illegal ticket quotas and asked to talk to a judge.

Paso Robles court personnel forwarded his request to Susan Matherly, the court executive officer.

“I called him back and did not believe he was a police office,” Matherly said. “I thought he was someone impersonating an officer.”

Matherly then called Captain Robert Burtin to inform the police department about the imposter, she said.

Shortly afterwards, department command staff allegedly retaliated against Tatro by initiating an internal affairs investigation into his attempt to talk to a judge, the claim says.

The suit also criticizes command staff for retaliating against the officer by removing him from job responsibilities that would further his career and giving the officer unwarranted reprimanding.

CalCoastNews interviewed more than a half dozen current and former officers and department employees, many of whom have asked to remain unnamed to protect them from retaliation or because of pending lawsuits. All of the officers told similar stories of alleged illegal quotas, dangerous police policies and command staff retaliation.

The officers contend Solomon has enacted new department policies that promote writing traffic tickets while serving the public in “safe mode.”

Her policies include only allowing one officer to respond to an incident in code three, speeding with sirens and lights. At the same time, if an officer responds to an incident such as a rape or an assault they are not permitted, according to policy, to engage the suspect until backup arrives, officers said.

In one instance last year, an officer responded to a call that a man had been bitten by his pit bull and was trying to break down his sister’s bedroom door so that the dog could attack her also, former officer Dave Hernandez said.

The officer permitted to use code three arrived first, heard screams from the house and stepped out of his car. The dog bolted from the house and attempted to attack the officer, who responded by shooting and killing the dog.

Department command staff questioned the officer for approaching the house before backup arrived, Hernandez said. The incident resulted in new polices being put into action prohibiting single officer responses, Hernandez said.

“So if I go to a house and see someone being attacked, I do not go in until backup arrives,” Hernandez said. “We signed up to put our lives on the line for others and now we have to wait, even if we hear shots and screaming.”

Hernandez said he asked supervisors if they were sued for failing to respond, would the department protect them, and was told yes.

In a strange twist, the department has also awarded officers for not risking injury by allowing fleeing suspects to get away.

For example, an officer recently received an accommodation for not chasing a suspect.

“I just read and approved this case,” the commendation written by Sgt. Dave Bouffard says. “It is the case where you stopped a suspicious subject riding a bike at night without a light.

“During your contact with him the subject pulled a meth pipe out of his pocket by accident. Once he realized this, he took off running. You weighed all of the factors, severity of the crime, time of night, available cover units, and quickly decided not to chase the subject.

“This was an excellent decision on your part and I want to commend you for that decision not to chase the subject. Any pursuit has inherit (sic) dangers to the officers who are involved in them. During foot chases, especially at night, there is the risk of an injury incurred while involved in a foot chase in the dark for relatively low level crimes.

On the bottom of the commendation, Solomon wrote in pen, “Good judgment and decision making in a rapidly evolving situation, thanks.”

City council members and the mayor did not respond or refused to answer questions about the claim.

City Attorney Iris Lang said that Paso Robles staff does not inform city council members of claims against the city. City officials in San Luis Obispo County’s other six cities said they inform the city council of major credible lawsuits that could be substantial.

Retaliation lawsuit:

TatroClaimC


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Crusader

This is not how a chief of police should represent the city that employs her:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtspT4C_G3g&feature=related


Ever consider some khakis or even a skirt, Solomon? How about a series of voice lessons? This was painful! Did you self-appoint yourself to singing the National Anthem at this event? There are plenty of people here locally who would have done a far better job at no cost…


MaryMalone

Considering it was the Star Spangled Banner, I think she did a decent job of singing.


But why was the Chief of Police singing at a public event? I have never heard of a Chief of Police singing at a public event–not talking about off-duty karaoke-type stuff, of course.


I think Lisa Solomon is one of the more pathetic women I’ve heard of. She has a very powerful position, one where she could make a real difference in the lives of the Paso Robles’ citizens she and her department are supposed to protect and serve. She could have taken her PR police chief experience and advanced to other positions on a state level.


It is really a crying shame that she is crippled by her obsession with reclaiming what, for her, sounds like it was the apex of her life experience: being a local beauty queen when she was a teenager.


She has wasted years of her life, and her legacy now reads as a “avoid-at-all-costs” instruction manual for women on how to leave behind the glory days when they had a smoking bod and nary a wrinkle in sight…and accomplish things that better themselves and their community.


She is pathetic. A woman in her position, with the power to make Paso Robles a better place, and she can’t move beyond her loss of the right to wear the rhinestone tiara of a local beauty queen.


Pathetic. Pathetic. Pathetic.


Crusader

I largely agree except there was absolutely no way that “She could have taken her PR police chief experience and advanced to other positions on a state level.” She is so far in over her head now that there is no way she continue to climb, particularly in a bigger pond.


MaryMalone

Just from what I’ve read about her, it seems that she never left her glory days of being a beauty queen behind. Dancing on bars. Constantly needing verification of her sexual attractiveness. Multiple affairs and marriages.


As the years have progressed, she has to become more strident and grasping at verification of her physical allures, to the point where she gropes a subordinate’s hoo-hoo in a hot-tub full of other subordinates.


This is a long road she’s traveled, and if she had taken a different road–had her ego been such that she had value in other positive attributes that were just waiting to be developed–she clung to the easy out: her sexuality.


So, I agree, at this point she is not fit for much except maybe a girley prop at a low-level trade show, for a vendor with a booth way, way, WAY in the back, dark corner.


But early on she could have taken advantage of the opportunities offered to her perhaps in part because of her looks, and turned them into opportunities that would last long after the looks faded.


Bluebird

To all you public employee union bashers: This is a good example of why public employee need unions. This can happen in any public sector department. Management in the public sector is no different then it is in the corporate world.


Maxfusion

Oh really, I see this as an affirmative action problem.


Crusader

Yeah, those unions have been doing a helluva job in reining-in Solomon over the years…


pasoparent5

Fear of losing ones job in the worst economy since the Great Depression is a great motivator for one to keep his mouth shut so he can keep his job. Feeding your family & paying the mortgage on your underwater home tend to have priority when jobs are scarce. I hope the cops all speak out now and I hope the truth comes to light but I wouldn’t blame this situation on a union.


MaryMalone

The union member has to request help from the union, in my experience.


pasoparent5

You know, Bluebird…I’m politically conservative on most issues. I’ve never been a big union supporter & I think most of ’em are just fronts for liberal democratic causes. In a lot of ways, we’re probably polar opposites.


With that being said, I agree w/you 100%. I wish unions were local organizations, though, and not national money-grubbers. In a case like this, hopefully the cops’ union will back up these men and support them through the legal process.


californiagold

There is one lone value that I find in unions and it is the weight a union brings to the table when a single employee has an issue that has not been resolved or, worse yet, ignored. It’s a tough spot to be in when you have no clout against an employer. Without backing of another organization a troublesome employer can retaliate, act punitively, is free to institutionalize harassment and make life miserable until the employee leaves. I dare say a single employee at United Airlines would have zero weight but the employee’s union knocking at the door would garner different attention. Not saying its right, but it is a sad fact.


I’m not a member of a union and but can understand the value in such matters. I too hope these people are supported through what is sure to be a difficult period of time.


MaryMalone

If you have the time, you might want to check out what unions do on a local level. For some it goes far beyond representing members on issues with employers.


Locals are places where members can learn new skills and get certified for positions. They also work as go-betweens in situations like when Diablo Canyon has an outage and needs to bring in a large number of qualified, certified workers for a short period of time.


Some unions are very visible in what they do in training. One example is the Laborers Union Local No 402 in Nipomo, where there are regularly projects constructed and then dismantled so a group of members can learn skills.


pasoparent5

I appreciate your reply, Mary. I’m not so much opposed to local unions because I do feel that teachers/cops/firefighters/etc need to come together to stand for decent working conditions, adequate training, and decent management. I just oppose how the dues are funneled away from local members and end up in the coffers of the big union leaders on the national level.


MaryMalone

As I said, national and local have different focuses. The national union organization is needed for a lot of reasons.


Here are three reasons:

1. To unite the locals. United nationally, local unions have more power locally.

2. To represent the union’s best interests at a state and federal level.

3. To support other unions and to join with them in common union causes.


MaryMalone

A union may be national, but, at least in my experience with the carpenters union, the Local in many ways defines what the local union members experience from the union. I think a union’s national board would do an absolutely terrible job of micro-managing a local union. The national and local have different areas of focus, work at different levels, have different powers, and are experienced at different things.


Also, in my experience, the union member has to ask the union for help in dealing with a work issue.


BeenThereDoneThat

I don’t personnelly know Tatro but he ran the summer baseball league my son was on a few years back. Seemed like a pretty straight shooter (pardon the pun). People I talked to at that time said he was well liked and respected.


So with that said, you have to wonder with him filing this last month WAYYY before this hit the press, if we are starting to just now see the tip of the iceberg? I am begining to think that this is all going to have some validaty to it. You have Tatro coming forward. Nemith an ex council member and other unnamed sources within the dept. I’m sure the two or three naysays posting here will still have their heads stuck in the sand, sayin there is nothing going on.


Again like most posting, I’m not saying one way or the other that Lisa is guilty of anything BUT I think from what we are seeing, there is more than enough information to warrent an investigation.


south

John Tatro is and always has been a very good cop. But the Solomon scandal is simply predictable. The cronyism and questionable policies and standards started with Nelson, continued with Cassidy and hopefully will end with Solomon.


nocalsignora

He’s a veteran police office with a college education, is super fit, and, like many of us has made his mistakes in the past, but GREW UP while others rose in the ranks, kissed ass and obviously still haven’t grown up! He is close to retirement, but is willing to risk years of hard work by coming forward.


Crusader

WHAT: Protest gathering prior to next Paso Robles City Council meeting. We will also attend the city council meeting.


WHY: To protest the horridly unacceptable behavior of Police Chief Lisa Solomon, City Manager James L. App and others that puts our local community in danger.


WHERE: 1000 Spring Street Paso Robles, CA (Paso Robles Government Center/Library)


WHEN: Tuesday, February 7th beginning at 6:00 pm. City council meeting begins at 7:30 pm


SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS: Please wear articles of RED clothing (hats, shirts, coats, etc.) as forms of unity and protest. Bring your own protest signs if you like.


REFERENCE: http://www.prcity.com/governme


“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Please join us and bring a friend or two!


godislanguage

Just the thing to run a city down. Emasculate your officers and turn them into glorified meter maids. Gang bangers know it and the cock roaches proliferate. Get the Raid out….time to disinfect the place.


pasoparent5

Yep. It’s ironic. Here we have a police chief wasting 4+ years spending hundreds of hours promoting Paso as a tourist destination (Amgen/Wine Festival) yet I’ve NEVER heard of another city using its top cop in that manner. Usually a police chief focuses on….public safety!


But we have had WORSE crime since Lisa was anointed chief. Graffitti, drive by shootings, 2 fatal stabbings last year, increased drug trafficking, increased auto/home burglaries. That so-called Safe Streets program wasn’t brought into town cuz things were getting BETTER! Those PR13 punks & meth heads from the valley are smart enough to sense weakness & if there’s ever been a softer, easier target right now–it’s Paso Robles!


MaryMalone

But we have had WORSE crime since Lisa was anointed chief. Graffitti, drive by shootings, 2 fatal stabbings last year, increased drug trafficking, increased auto/home burglaries.


I don’t think anyone should be surprised at the inefficacy of the PRPD officers. They have had inept leadership. Solomon created far, far, FAR more problems than she solved, and it is the LEO on the street who has to deal with the ramifications to the department.


The community pays by increased danger to the citizens, and a general degradation of their community and the lives they experience living there.


It’s like the SMPD: in both situations, I see officers who need better leadership. They deserve better leadership.


How can they get anything done with the constant scandals, increased stress, and near-constant harassment of one or more of their departments’ officers?


Cindy

WOW. A few day’s ago, someone posted that they were given a ticket for failing to stop at a STOP SIGN. She said that she had come to a full stop and that the ticket was bogus. She claimed that she informed the issuing officer that she planned to challenge the ticket but that he didn’t show up at court. I have no doubt that she was telling the truth about receiving a bogus ticket after reading this.


What’s outrageous is that Solomon sends these guys (one at a time) out to an emergency 911 call but only allows one officer to drive code 3 style but then he can’t respond once he arrives. What the heck is that? Is Solomon really that dense?


Doesn’t sound like the PRPD are serving anyone except the city coffers in fact they have become more of a detriment to the Citizenry than a service agency.


pasowino

I had the chance to go along on a ride-along with Paso PD two years ago. Every police car has a dash camera facing both internally and externally of the car and records the audio inside and outside. While on the ride along we happen to pull someone over for not stopping at a stop sign (it was pretty blatant. He barely slowed down). Anyway, I asked the officer what would happen if he decided to fight the ticket in court. He said that the video clearly shows him running the stop sign and if the court date was on his day on duty, he would go to the court and present the video. It sounded like if it was a day off, he wouldn’t go to the court.


Anyway, not sure what that’s worth, but I suspect if the person ran the stop sign, it would be on video (if the car was pointed that direction.)


WiseGuy

The problem is, too often, if the video shows the officer doing something illegal, the video “disappears” or the camera “wasn’t working.”


MaryMalone

The City of Bell police officers and video cams, too.


MaryMalone

Doesn’t sound like the PRPD are serving anyone except the city coffers in fact they have become more of a detriment to the Citizenry than a service agency.


You are describing the City of Bell PD under Mayor Rizzo’s administration to a T. The State Auditor got involved in the City of Bell. Perhaps Paso Robles is in the auditor’s sites.


Judge Questions Why Bell’s Former Police Chief Isn’t Facing Corruption Charges

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/19/local/la-me-bell-adams-20111220


Bell Police Memo Outlines ‘Baseball Game’ Targeting Drivers

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/28/local/la-me-03-01-bell-baseball-20110301


Cindy

You’re right, the Bell PD “baseball game” with it’s quotas was very similar to what Paso is doing. The bottom line is that its illegal so when Tatro complained to everybody, literally everybody who was somebody with the authority to bring the department into compliance, why didn’t anyone do something? Even the court administrator upon learning that Tatro was indeed a PRPD LEO didn’t contact Tatro and arrange to schedule a meeting with a judge as he had requested. This is over the top, I think the whole city council, the city manager (App) and that court admin should all be investigated. I’m not so certain that she didn’t intend to do exactly what she did. She denied Tatro’s request for scheduling an appointment with a judge, she called the PRPD powers that be and ratted out Tatro and then she did nothing to further assist him.


The Gimlet Eye

Yes, Cindy, it’s rather like the Penn State thing. Somebody does something wrong, and the people in the upper chain of command don’t do anything about it.


willie

If this practice has been blatant, one can reasonably assume the auto insurance industry has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in Paso by rate heights annually.


RU4Real

I’m glad to see that the officer has retained an excellent law firm from the San Fernando Valley. These guys will get the job done & chief Lisa & Paso will go DOWN. Let’s get rid of Lisa & App before they cost Paso any more money. (that the city does NOT have)


standup

Why is she not on leave already? Ticket quotas are illegal. She thinks she is above the law. If Jim App is smart, she will be on leave by next Tuesday by the City Council meeting. This whole thing is a crock.


californiagold

It seems to me that those who would make the decision to place her on administrative leave should also be placed on administrative leave. Suppose that position is the CEO (city manager). In following the threads of this mess, it seems all power rests with the City Manager and he answers to no one but the City Council and a very senior, long time councilman (Duane Picanco) already said in an interview he knows nothing, that it was all news to him. Scathing admission of an elected official. Alarming scenario of just how these “public servants” are conducting business.


Someone up there is behind the scenes and holds all the puppet strings and that person is staying very quiet.


pasoparent5

Jim App’s the puppet master and you’re correct. He, too, needs to go on admin leave.


MaryMalone

If a city’s charter calls for a city manager, they have to have an acting city manager.


It can be an interim city manager, but qualified candidates are difficult to find and attract, and turn out to be basically place-holders. They can also do damage to the city while in the position.


It can be another person in the city who temporarily serves as city manager. However, in App’s situation, I think that could cause a lot of problems.


I agree with you, that App should be on unpaid administrative leave, but it may be difficult for PR to do. In addition, if App is as corrupt as many PR residents seem to believe, he has probably been in on the back-room dealings of PR, so his co-back-room dealers may not want him sitting at home, disgruntled, bored, and with nothing to do but sit meet with attorneys and ruminate over his experience at PR.


danika

You can visually see the officers need to generate money for the city when in Paso. They sit and watch, almost salivating at opportunity to pounce. Now I know why. I suspected there was a quota to meet. Good story, CCN.


BeenThereDoneThat

It does make you wonder Danika. Where I live in Paso, our track is a little off the beaten path. I noticed on the way to work about five months ago, a local cop parked hidden back three houses from a stop sign in our area. If I could show you where this was you would laugh. A car goes by at the average rate of one every four minutes. I said to my wife after I saw this, that WHY would they be patroling a stop sign in a low car volumn area, when there are MANY more high volumn area stop signs in the city. Now I may know why. Hmm.


Oh and the area I live. In ten years in this neighborhood I have only seen the cops in it about four times. So why would they all of a sudden be patroling an off the beat stop sign, when in past they just drive through?


MaryMalone

So why would they all of a sudden be patroling an off the beat stop sign, when in past they just drive through?”


Because they were ordered to by their superior officer(s)?


As long as their superior orders them to do something that is within their job duties and is not illegal, they have to do it. If they don’t, it is insubordination and then they start down the road to termination.


BeenThereDoneThat

Mary it was a retorical question but thanks for the reply.


danika

M.O.N.E.Y. disguised in the pretext of keeping the streets safer.


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