Quartzsite, Ariz., Where the Fox Guards the Chickens
Outpost of Freedom
July 21, 2011
In a rather interesting, and perhaps, bizarre, action by the Quartzsite Chief of Police, Jeff Gilbert, sanctioned by the Assistant Town Manager, Al Johnson, ten of the fourteen Town policemen have been put on paid leave and confined to their homes, during certain periods of the day.
So, why is this bizarre? Well, if it were a corporation/business and the CEO (Chief) decided that he wanted to suspend employees, pending firing; he could be serving the best interest of the company and the stockholders. However, he would also be accountable to the stockholders, and could be dismissed, forthwith, absent the consent of those “owners” of the corporation.
However, when we look at a Police Department, whose purpose is to serve the citizens of that town, we should have an entirely different standard. If the town requires 14 policemen to maintain control of the town and provide for the safety of the citizens, how can it be in the best interest of the town (and its citizens) to dispense with 71% of the force that was argued as necessary to provide that protection? At least, this should lead to some serious questions about the Police Department’s budget — as a necessity — since the Chief has arbitrarily found that he can do with four, what he used to need fourteen to do. This is especially true when you consider that recently the Town Council determined that the safety of the public warranted a special meeting and emergency measures (see The Emergency that Warranted an Emergency Meeting of the Quartzsite Town Council) be taken to provide for that safety. How does that possibly justify the presumption that only 35% of the force can provide such safety?
Think about it, you have four officers who must serve a town of 3800 people, 24 hours a day. That amounts to 1.3 officers on duty, for all shifts, seven days a week, with no time off.
Understand that Quartzsite sits astride Interstate Highway 10, the primary corridor from Phoenix (and points east) to Los Angeles. With its truck stops and eateries, and the last significant town before entering California, it is a 24-hour town. Parts of the town bustle all day, and all night. How, then, can adequate protection be provided?
Well, the answer is quite simple. Don Lowery, Sheriff of La Paz County, Arizona, and Chief Gilbert, worked together as officers on the Colorado River Indian Reservation. Coincidently, they both ended up back in La Paz County. One as Sheriff; the other as Chief of Police in Quartzsite. Can there be any wonder why the investigation called for by the ten officers (No Confidence in Quartzsite Chief of Police Jeff Gilbert) ended up being dismissed?
The dismissal of the complaint has resulted in the current activity that imposes the following on the ten officers (only some of what is imposed by the “Notice of Investigation and Intent to Interview“):
- You have the right to have a representative with you during the interview
- Your representative may not participate in the interview
- Your representative must either be an employee of the Quartzsite Police Department who is not a subject of this investigation or a member of your professional membership organization
- Your representative cannot be an attorney
Let’s take a breather here. A representative is one who represents you, but, in this case, cannot represent (participate) you in the interview. And, in an even more surprising proclamation, he cannot be an attorney. It appears that the right to counsel in proceedings that can result in disciplinary action, including termination, does not allow what has been considered a mainstay of the judicial process in this country.
The officers are then placed on “administrative leave”, with the proviso that they are “required to remain in at [their] place of residence (house arrest?) between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and Noon and between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.”
It continues, “Failure to be present at your residence during those hours without express prior approval from the investigator, Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson, shall be considered dereliction of duty and may result in additional disciplinary action, including dismissal”.
This pretty much displaces the concept of justice, the judicial branch of government, which the law enforcement agencies are an extension of, as officers of the court. And ironically, it is contrary to what occurred when the investigation of Chief Gilbert was conducted.
At the June 16, 2011 Town Council meeting, John Stairs, vice president, Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs (AZCOPS), specifically suggested, in his recommendation to the Town Council that “AZCOPS believes it is wise and prudent to place Chief Gilbert on paid administrative leave so these allegations can be thoroughly and impartially investigated by DPS.” At that meeting, however, the Town Council rejected the recommendation, leaving Chief Gilbert in full control of the Police Department.
Now comes the emergency meeting (link, above) that places Chief Gilbert and Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson in total control, and they decide that ten officers should be placed on administrative leave, leaving the town with a very meager staff to maintain “law and order” (and, I use that phrase loosely), while the decision rests, for all intents and purposes, in the hands of Jeff Gilbert.
Can there be any better example of the fox guarding the chickens?
[Note: Do not construe this article to imply that the citizens of Quartzsite are the chickens referred to, rather, that the chickens referred to herein are the entire Town Council and administrative staff, with the sole exception of Mayor Ed Foster.]
Previous articles on Quartzsite: