Did illegal ticket quotas hasten Gesell’s exit?

May 11, 2015

Steve Gesell 4By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN

San Luis Obispo Police Chief Steve Gesell’s command staff initiated an illegal ticket quota scheme with pizza as a reward, emails obtained by CalCoastNews show, an activity that may have contributed to Gesell’s being placed on paid administrative leave Friday.

City officials are not disclosing the reasons for Gesell’s departure.

In the past, the San Luis Obispo Police Department has been plagued with complaints of ticket quotas. Ticket quotas are against state law.

A quota exists when a department sets a number of tickets and citations an officer is expected to write during a shift. Ticket quotas are banned because they are known to promote questionable ticketing with higher revenue as an objective.

In San Luis Obispo, officers who do not to meet the minimums are put on a “performance improvement” plan, police sources said. Officers who fail to improve while on the performance plan are subject to disciplinary actions, including termination.

Gesell did not respond to questions about the alleged quotas. Nevertheless, a records request for end-of-shift emails shows that the department was providing perks to officers for reaching specified ticketing goals.

In 2013, SLO police officers made 396 driving under the influence arrests, or an average of one a day.

On Feb. 13, police command staff asked the officers to give five DUIs during one shift, sources said. If the officers met the goal, command staff would host a party for the officers.

In an end-of-shift email dubbed “Friday the 13th,” Sgt. John Villanti writes that officers stayed busy all night, with one local man dying of a heroin overdose, and five others being arrested for DUIs.

“It should be noted that the watch fulfilled a challenge set in the beginning of the rotation by Sgt. Gillham,” Villanti wrote in an email he sent to officers on Feb. 14 shortly after 6 a.m. “He offered to provide a pizza party if the watch arrested five DUI’s in a night. With Sgt. Villanti substituting for Gillham this was achieved and we are all looking forward to the pizza party which hopefully is served with dessert too!!!”

Sources inside the department said that shortly after CalCoastNews made its requests for end-of-shift emails, the department stopped pushing ticket quotas. Cities such as Los Angeles and Paso Robles have paid large settlements to officers who have filed lawsuits alleging illegal ticket quotas.

In addition to accusations of promoting illegal ticker quotas, Gesell has been under fire for charging city taxpayers for meals purchased for his family during a combination chief training and family vacation to Disney World. This was first reported by CalCoastNews in an exclusive report.

After city officials conducted their own investigation, City Manager Katie Lichtig said that some of the police chief’s financial transgressions were “mistakes.” In other cases, while Gesell’s actions violated written city policies, his actions were excused as a “consistent application” of policy according to a “historical interpretation.” Historical interpretation means that even though policies and procedures have been laid out, prior practice allows them to be violated without consequence.

Gesell was also criticized for a December opinion piece in the Tribune about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Gesell wrote that he was shocked by the “ever-growing lack of deference to rule of law, push for mob justice by some and a concerted lack of objective focus by the media….”

Reliable and informed sources say Lichtig placed Gesell on leave as part of a plan to remove him from the city payroll because of irreconcilable differences. The late-day timing of Friday’s disciplinary action was a failed attempt to keep the public in the dark, sources said.

In addition, the city council is expected to discuss a payout, likely to be in six figures, at a council meeting later this month — during a closed session. Lichtig hired Gesell as chief in Jan. 2012.

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Perspicacious

That opinion piece he wrote was dead on! If he is proven to be a hypocrite, then we will deal with that. But the substance of the opinion piece still stands. I think this is like a messy divorce where the city manager has irreconcilable differences and his piling on anything she can to justify the separation.


Perspicacious

Something isn’t right here. The article talks about “illegal ticket quotas” but gives an example of officers being rewarded for 5 DUI arrests in a night. Hasn’t MADD, in conjunction with local departments, been handing out awards to the local LE officer who has the most arrests for years? I don’t see the problem with this. If the folks being arrested for DUI were in fact, DUI, why is anybody complaining? Arrest quotas are illegal too but 99 times out of 100 when people refer to quotas it is a set number of cites for INFRACTIONS they are griping about, not MISDEMEANOR arrests. I don’t see anywhere in the story that a minimum number of DUI arrests was set. I think officers who complain that they were harassed for not meeting a quota are using that as an excuse for being lazy. If The average number of cites in the department for a month is 50 per officer, but a couple of officers consistently bring in 10-20, is the supervisor instituting a quota when he asks the officer to pick it up a bit? I don’t think so.


I think this story is much ado about nothing. Better stop MADD awards.


kettle

MADD has nothing to do with this.


Ticket quotas by california law enforcement are illegal and they know it, thats why they do it under the table, trade favors or pizza or preferred shifts, new shift car etc.


Still illegal, still exposes our city to lawsuits.


99 times out of 100 when people make claims they don’t even google to see if it is true.


Perspicacious

You should read my post again and respond to what I actually said.


MajorityFan

Hey, it came from “sources from inside the department” plus the “reliable and informed sources.” That’s more than usual!


black sheep

Gesell wrote that he was shocked by the “ever-growing lack of deference to rule of law, push for mob justice by some and a concerted lack of objective focus by the media….” – well mr gesell, i too am shocked by the ever growing lack of deference to rule of law. and when people like you pledged and paid to enforce that law acts on it only applying to everyone else, the only justice isn’t going to come from you. hopefully the objective focus by the media is a little more to your liking tho


black sheep

somehow this doesn’t surprise me. that about sums up the level of integrity or professionalism youd expect from Slo city or police/sherrifs department, even after hedges. talk about” historical interpretation”.


pasoparent5

Whaaaat?! A police chief instituting ticket quotas?


Hmm….eerily reminiscent of Chittygate, including the six figure payout.

Now all we’re missing is a hot tub and some bad karaoke.


agag1

And green tea.


MajorityFan

And don’t forget the alleged tryst.


demiseofslo

SLOPD is good for nothing! Nothing!!!


kayaknut

If Gesell stealing taxpayer’s money wasn’t enough to get him fired without a payout why should illegally making money that goes into the pit of the General Fund get him in trouble?


agag1

Hmmmmm, because the city manager wasn’t invited to the pizza party????


agag1

Arroyo Grande has it’s tea party, now SLO is celebrating with pizza parties?


Why don’t we just skip the $$$$ salaries, and pay city employees with food and drink since that appears to be what motivates them?


Un-be-live-able!


aft50s

So the cops have to have a pizza party w/ dessert to be encouraged to do the damn job they are paid handsomely to do?


mbbizpro

I am not sure that rewarding them with parties is appropriate, but, I am grateful for them, the risks that they take and the service that they provide. In an environment where they are being scrutinized to an extreme, are targets of what seems to be an organized attempt to assisnate them across the country and a smear campaign from our Department of Justice I think we get more service than we should ever expect. Freddy Gray, the “victim” in Baltimore had 22 arrests dating back to 2007. The DOJ sent 3 reps to attend his funeral, yet none attend the funeral of the officer recently murdered by a criminal in NY.


kettle

The Department of Justice and Freddy Gray, have nothing to do with illegal ticket quotas in SLO.


It’s called a derail.


“yet none attend the funeral ”


Total off subject derail.


mbbizpro

Why is it that expressing gratitude to the Police Officers do is derailing a conversation? Illegal Ticket Quotas have yet to be proven or even alleged, except at this site. There is a constant attack on our Police Officers. Go ahead and pile on if you like, but, those of us that want to address it are free to do so.


kettle

No, this is about you derailing a local police story for your own ends.


Just like someone bringing up Benghazi, Obama, blue dress, immigrants, Holder, Diane Feinstein etc while discussing SLO police Illegal Ticket Quotas for example.

Imagine if everyone did the same thing, what a mess it would be.


Also by enforcing the law we are defending the local patrol officers from managements Ticket Quotas, not attacking anyone.


r0y

Kettle nailed it, mbbizpro.


IronHub

The evidence seems to show that if Freddie had 22 arrests, 22 of them were probably illegal.


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