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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jarhead

I have been gone for a month , and now I come back to see they have now found out that the FORMER CHIEF is GUILTY of all .

He is a NARCISSIST , there are a whole lot of officers and former officers that are SO glad to see him get HIS , now finish the job and take down the rest of the city management, it was good for BELL and will be good here.

Good job CAL COAST uncovering the truths


fishing village

So were the people giving DUI deserving? If so then good! We don’t need drunks on the road. Quotas are weird though. Just do your job and take in the drunks who are driving!! Are these guys bored out there and looking for something to do? Hum? Ya gotta wonder.


SamLouis

You’re right, we DON’T need drunks out on the road.


We also don’t need a military state where law enforcement pulls over motorists without probable cause.


The SLOPD needs reform. It needs strong leadership.


hijinks

It’s possible the “quotas” for special days, like Valentine’s eve, were simply a recognition that on most days officers look the other way rather than stop a DUI or cell-phoner, or texter, or speeder, or stop-sign runner, or whatever else they pretty much seem to ignore most of the time. If they did their job everyday, there’d be no need for special occasion quotas. But then there’s the pizza angle — truly weird.


ml1999

Did the Police Chief act on his own?


If he was given this directive by the City Manager, Accounting Manager, Mayor, etc., should they not also be fired?


SamLouis

Just how many posed photos of Gesell in uniform exist?


kayaknut

I would say at least 14, one for every “training” he attended on the taxpayers dime, but then again not sure he would have worn his uniform at this “trainings”.


joseywales

San Luis Obispo, “the most corrupt city in america” where all city employees are living in the happiest city in america.


hijinks

Actually, most employees don’t live in the city. They just work here. Not a part of the community at all. Don’t give a damn about life here.


flytrap

For all of his faults, pleading for law and order should in the opinion piece should not

be held against him. However, the message is clear from the City: you have almost a

guaranteed job in that even if you “get fired”, you don’t really get fired. You receive

an opportunity to negotiate to receive severance pay which can be equivalent to at

least a couple years salary. It’s like receiving an unspoken “job security insurance”

in addition to all the benefits that he was receiving above his base salary. Another

giveaway from our financially savvy leaders!


hijinks

They got this dumb idea from corporate America, where the golden parachute employment clause was made standard for anybody above peon rank in the pecking order.


sloyal

The last time I was enticed to do something or perform better with the reward being a pizza party, I was in elementary school.


Cindy

The pizza party is just the reward at day’s end. The long term reward for generating cash follow pays off in lots of funding for real parties like free trips under the guise of extended education.


Cindy

Sorry, “cash follow” – that would be “cash flow”.


r0y

Simple solution: REMOVE the direct financial benefit from tickets, fines, etc. Keep all confiscation of private property out of the police / court system. Put it elsewhere, unconnected to the confiscators of private property.


I bet the amount of fines and tickets plummet to nothing.


How about REACTIONARY ticketing? Like if you cause an accident, THEN it was determined you were texting, without seatbelt, drunk, etc. the liability escalates? The old “No Harm, No Foul” rule?


Sure, it’s libertarian pie-in-the-sky, but a fella can dream, can’t he? …for now.


Niles Q

Yeah, give the fine monies to the poor and the homeless, and watch the ticket writing fall off a cliff.


SLO_Johnny

My tax dollars finance paid vacations for city employees while I can’t even afford to take any vacation. These government employees rule over us like overlords. We’re constantly treated like peasants while politicians write laws keeping all the relevant information secret and sealed off from public scrutiny.


Slowerfaster

It’s called Reaganism. The suckers keep voting for these jerks against their own interests ….and NO, both sides/parties are not the same. Democrats are pretty stupid, but they get rid of their bad apples when found out. With Republicans, the whole barrel is rotten ….and they keep adding to it !


mbbizpro

I suppose these convicted Democrats ring no bell for you. Jim Trafigant, Frank Balance, Mel Reynolds, Walter Tucker,

Austin Murphy, Carl Perkings, Caroll Hubbard, Dan Rostonkowski. Should I provide more?


Slowerfaster

And what happened to those guys ? You make my point.


Meanwhile, whoremonger David Vitter (R) LA, is still a senator.

War criminals gwbush, cheney, rumsfeld, rice, yoo, wolfowitz, et al are all still ‘free’, at least in this country.

Arkansas senator Cotton drafts a letter that is a treasonous violation of the Constitution…and it is co-signed by 46 other, all Republican, senators.

Corrupt governors Walker, Scott, Christie, Deal, Snyder, LePage, Brownback …all Republicans; along with dummies Jindal, Haley, Pence, and now Rauner and Abbott ( again, all Republicans ) continue to run their states into the ground.


Who votes for these civilization destroyers ?


Citizen

You are always “johnny on the spot” to condemn people for racism–judging an entire group of people, yet here you are judging an entire group of people-Republicans-without any documentation. Maybe you should start reading the Huffington Post where you will find like minded people posting similar stuff. FYI, the California Senate, controlled by Democrats has not gotten rid of its bad apples. It took FBI investigations to rid them of Calderon and Yee.


r0y

It is what happens when “useful idiots” are no longer useful.


Slowerfaster

Well, the fascists ( contemporary American Republicans ) just kill them with militarized cops or purposeful ignorant neglect and don’t worry about i.t.


Slowerfaster

Interesting that you introduce racism to compare. Racists and bigots judge based on individual identity that is pretty much ( or rarely ) unalterable.

Being a Republican is not …it’s a choice.

I could have said ‘ignorant and mean bullies and crooks’, but it would be synonymous. Of course, not ALL that choose to be ‘Republican’ are ‘iambac.s’ …probably not a majority….but they ARE the suckers that put up with and enable the ones who are.

FYI, Calderon, Yee, AND Wright were suspended by the Democratically controlled State Senate AFTER proper investigations and hearings; so your point is moot.

Why would I go to the Huffington Post , or anywhere else to ‘preach to the choir’ when it is so much fun here ?


mbbizpro

Now that is too funny. Enablers? What do you call a political party that keeps taking money from those that earn it and giving it to those that do not, all in order to keep the recipients voting for them?


Slowerfaster

Well, I would have to say that Republican politicians earn the paybacks and ‘campaign donations’ from their ultra-rich lords and masters that generally DON’T earn their BILLION$ …at least they don’t work for the money, and from the multi national corporations that export good American jobs overseas to slave nations.


Yep …Republicans earn their shilling, carnival barking, backdoor lobbying, and schmoozing with Fatcats that don’t give a damn for you, me, or any ordinary Americans …and they do it for pennies on the dollar for the investment and return that their real bosses collect.


Rich in MB

Ah….Hello….The Clinton Foundation…bwaaa…haa…ha ha…


Kevin Rice

Answer: Mom and Dad.


Slowerfaster