I worked with and for Steve Gesell. Let me be as clear as I can about this. He was, and I’m sure still is, an utter piece of shit. He was, by far, the most self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic, unethical and mean-hearted person I ran across during my 21 years with Scottsdale PD (with only Carrie Candler being in the same ballpark).
Our paths first crossed, errrr clashed, around 2000 when he was the LT over the Bike Unit I was assigned to. He instituted a performance plan for our unit which looked a lot like a quota system. We were ordered to make X number of arrests per month. Most of my unit’s responsibility were the parks. His “performance improvement plan” created a situation in which others I worked with made, in my opinion, unwarranted arrests to meet the required arrest numbers. It all came to ahead during a unit meeting when I voiced my concern about the situation, telling my boss that I wouldn’t write “chicken-shit” tickets to people that live in the lower income areas of Scottsdale so Lt. Gesell could provide artificially inflated arrest numbers to get promoted. That comment would start a 3-year odyssey in which I would be targeted by my supervisor at the behest of Gesell.
It would all come to a head after multiple Internal Affairs Investigations were initiated on me over about a year and a half period. By this time, I had transferred into a new Chain-of-Command in order to distance myself from Gesell having any direct supervision over me. With my move, any new claims against me would go through the new chain of command per Scottsdale policy, which should have removed my former supervisor and/or Gesell from being involved in the actual investigation of the claims. Steve Gesell then pulled political strings within the organization, had a previously closed matter re-opened and was given permission to move the investigation back into their chian. Needless to say, the second time around I was found responsible for the initial policy violation (which had already been unfounded) AND they added a secondary violation that I had lied during an interview on the matter, knowing such a policy violation was grounds for termination. They recommended my termination. All possible terminations must be reviewed by the Deputy Chief in the employee’s respective chain-of-command. Upon reading the facts of the case, the Deputy Chief read through the bullshit, removed the investigation from them and had it moved to the two Internal Affairs investigators as neutral, third-party fact finders. The claims and policy violations would be unfounded by them. I kept my job and would go on to have a successful 21-year career with Scottsdale. Years later I would run into the supervisor that I worked for during this time, that was responsible for the second investigation and recommend my termination. To his credit he apologized to me for his actions, behavior and most importantly, for fabricating some of the information that found its way into the second IA investigation. He explained that, at the time, he thought it was the only way to get in the good graces of Gesell, which would ultimately result in a promotion.
During this period one co-worker really supported me while many others kept their heads down. Years later that co-worker and Steve Gesell’s paths would cross, literally, and would result in another IA investigation, only on my co-worker this time. It was a simple non-interaction. Steve Gesell was walking down a hallway at the District 2 Station at the same time my co-worker was exiting the bathroom. Their paths crossed. To this day my co-worker has no memory of passing by Gesell in that hallway. Two days later this co-worker would be served with a Notice of Internal Investigation for the policy violation of insubordination. As it happened, Gesell would claim that my co-worker “failed to greet a superior officer in an appropriate manner.” My co-worker and I worked in the same unit and had the same supervisor, a very, very good guy that knew our history with Gesell. This supervisor (props to him) would push-back on the motivations behind, validity of and call into question the entire thing. This would all culminate in a meeting where our supervisor would be ordered to take disciplinary action against my co-worker. During a meeting on the matter, Gesell would say, out loud, the reason for the discipline was because, “he didn’t kiss the Pope’s ring”. This would become a sort of lore within the PD for years to come. Anytime an investigation would be opened on an employee due to a personality conflict or because a supervisor officer decided to target a subordinate, employees would joke it was for Failure to Kiss the Pope’s Ring.
A short time after these events Steve Gesell would leave the department and get hired as Chief for San Luis Obispo PD in California. Under the idea that “It’s a small world”, I would go on to train a recruit at the police academy who would only spend about a year in the profession before retuning to her previous career, of journalism, in her hometown of San Luis Obispo, CA. Given her experience in law enforcement she would be assigned to cover local police news. This would roughly coincide with Gesell being hired as the Chief at San Luis Obispo PD. Only weeks after Gesell started, she reached out to me and asked my impressions of him. According to her, there were a bunch of red flags being raised about him within the organization, by city officials and the amongst the public. I passed on my experiences with him. She would go on to be one of the primary journalist that looked into his behavior as the SLOPD Chief. In the end, Gesell’s time as Chief would be marred by a series of controversies that would eventually lead to his termination approximately three years after he was hired. Demonstrating the same lack of ethics he did at Scottsdale, internal emails would be uncovered showing that, under Gesell’s leadership, SLOPD maintained an arrest quota system that was rewarded by, wait for it, pizza parties for the squad securing the most arrests and disciplinary action against any not meeting the required number of arrests, mostly importantly DUIs.
On a side note, this was the very same officially, unofficial quota system Scottsdale PD held their officers to during the time Gesell worked at SPD. We were required to make one arrest per week, arrest one DUI per month and write one ticket per shift. If an officer failed to maintain those numbers, they were threatened with the inability to promote, move to a specialized unit, the formation of a “performance plan” against them and if the “performance plan” was not followed (ie., a set number of tickets and arrests made per month), possible termination.
A Cal Coast New investigation found evidence, in the form of emails, that SLOPD operated a quota system under which officers that did not make the minimum number of arrests were put on a “performance improvement” plan and that officers not improving were subject to corrective action, up to termination. Does this sound familiar to anybody?
But that’s not what got him fired. What got him fired was taking family vacations on the taxpayer’s dime. You see, Gesell thought it was appropriate to expense parts of a family vacation to Disney to the city. According to subsequent news and city investigations, this included upgraded airplane tickets and meals for his family. Gesell purchased a much higher priced “special”, rate-based ticket, using city funds so that he could purchase additional tickets for his family members at a discounted price of $46 per person, which he then paid with his own money. This was in direct violation of the city’s written policy which stated “air travel on city business should be coach class.” Additionally, the event he was attending, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference in Orlando, provided discounted rooms between $75 and $200. Yet, Gesell reserved a VIP room at additional costs which also was in direct violation of city rules that required employee to stay in less expensive rooms if available. Lastly, free transportation was provided to attendees of the conference, yet Gesell rented a car for his family, costing $400, and then demanded reimbursement by the city, which he got. You can read all the violations found in the city’s internal investigation, including copies of several receipts. In May 2015, Gesell would be terminated from the Chief position as San Luis Obispo’s Chief.
So, what happens after you get fired for instituting an illegal quota system and stealing from the taxpayers? In typical Scottsdale PD fashion, you get helped and protected by your friends. In this case, the former Scottsdale Chief that allowed Gesell’s behavior at SPD, Doug Bartosh, would be promoted to City Manager in Cottonwood, AZ and hire Gesell as the new Cottonwood Chief in early 2016, just months after his termination for misuse of taxpayer money. And Gesell is not the only former SPD employee he hired by Bartosh. In 2005, Bartosh hired and former Scottsdale officer that was fired after he was found drunk, passed-out behind the wheel. This person and Gesell were the finalists for the Cottonwood Chief position. You just can’t make this shit up.
See also: Steve Gesell hired by his former boss
Now, Steve Gesell wants to hold public office. I’ve always believed that in order to run for public office you must have a borderline narcissistic personality disorder. If I’m right, Gesell should be elected with 100% of the vote. I also think that many who look to serve in public office do so to reap the benefits of their office for personal gain, often through behavior considered unethical if most people did it. Look no further than how the US Congress continues to be allowed to invest based on insider knowledge. This guys already has a proven history of being untrustworthy when handling taxpayers’ money. Where’s the best place to put someone with a certain moral flexibility when dealing with public funds . . . . as a state legislator; partially in control of millions of dollars. Seems perfectly logical.
On a related note, I interned for a legislative session at the AZ State Capitol and would later be hired as a non-partisan research staffer for the Senate. I did that job for a year before leaving it to become a police officer at Scottsdale PD. I’m familiar with how the AZ Legislature operates. Gesell would actually, and unfortunately, fit right in.
Let me just visit his website and address a bit of what’s on it.
“Integrity, accountability and transparency have always remained paramount in organizations Steve has led.” I think I’m going to puke. Let’s not forget that the Chief by which you cut your leadership teeth, were mentored by and later hired you was, himself, fired at Scottsdale PD “because of a host of issues, including leadership problems and lack of enthusiasm to implement changes recommended” (East Valley Tribune). This included things like waiving city policy and hiring a high ranking, non-sworn director who admitted to using cocaine about 20 times . . . because she was a friend, while at the very same time disqualifying police candidates because they smoked weed one-time, ten-years prior, when they were in high school.
“He has a well-established record of principled and fearless leadership . . .” Dude, you were fired from your previous job for stealing taxpayers’ money to foot the bill for a family vacation.
“Steve has been highly successful in establishing community trust.” Ummmm, what now?!?!?!?
Somebody do me a favor, make a list of all the former Scottsdale PD supervisors and those in leadership positions with a history of “failing upward” while at Scottsdale, to leave the organization for promotions elsewhere, only to be forced to resign or fired within a few years of taking the new job. I’ll start: Steve Gesell, Johnny Cervantes (Casa Grande PD), Carrie Candler (Gilbert PD), John Cocca (Dept of Liquor), Michael Rosenberger (Dept of Liquor) and Jeffrey Trillo (Dept of Liquor). That’s just off the top of my head without doing any research. I’m sure there are more. If you measure the success of leadership at any organization by the number of future leaders that organizations creates, Scottsdale PD fails.
I digress, sorry. Back to my point. Steve Gesell writes on his website, “Why Am I Running for Office? We’re in a crisis of character. There’s been a massive breach of trust in many of our institutions and individuals whose decisions impact our lives. Many focus solely on personal interests and have turned their back on the people they serve.” You have no character. You have no integrity. You treat people like shit. You have already beached the trust of the people you severed in California.
I’ll say it one last time. Steve Gesell running for office based on a notion of integrity and character . . . you can’t make this shit up.