Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quartzsite Officers statements about Quartzsite "emergency" on July 10th, 2011


The following are the sworn statements of Quartzsite Police Officers James Kemp and Michelle Norris, made to the Office of the Attorney General, Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team (OMLET), regarding the declaration of an "emergency" in Quartzsite on Sunday, 7-10-11

Statement by Officer Kemp About “Emergency” Condition
07/10/11, J.C. Kemp Q35
On 07-10-11, I went to the Quartzsite Police Station to pick up some paperwork from my box. Upon entering the station, I saw Ofc. Norris, Ofc. Rodriguez, and Chief Gilbert. As I stopped to check the warrants board, I heard Ofc. Norris call me and ask me to come into the patrol room where they were
I entered and asked them what was going on. The Chief explained that earlier that morning, the Town Council had called a special meeting to announce a state of emergency in Quartzsite, due to threatening emails sent to them and the Chief. The Chief then proceeded to read me an email that said something to the effect that the person who wrote the email would not mind if the Chief was killed.
Ofc. Norris then cut in and asked him why she and Ofc. Rodriguez, who were on duty that day, had not been informed of a state of emergency. The Chief stated that he had been unaware of what the council was going to do until just a short time ago at the meeting.
At his words, I grew angry, as I had been shown an email from Chief to the La Paz County Sheriff's Office asking for their assistance, as death threats had been issued over the internet, and Quartzsite was discussing calling a state of emergency.
I asked the Chief how serious a threat he thought it really was, if he had not told his own officers in advance, as all officers receive death threats, usually in person while making an arrest. Chief again said he had not told us, as he himself did not know the town was calling a state of emergency till just a few minutes ago. I again asked him if the threat was actually credible. At this point, he seemed to get visibly angry at me, and asked me, "How can you of all people not take this threat seriously?"
I told the Chief that since we now "knew", we needed to call and inform all the officers working for our department that the town was in a state of emergency. The Chief said no, that the officers would be informed as they arrived for their shifts of duty. I said I believed that if death threats were being made against Quartzsite Officers, and since the people making the threats were local and knew where all the Officers lived, we needed to inform all Law Enforcement Officers right away, to heighten their alertness at home as well as on the street, working. The Chief shook his head, and stated the Officers would be notified over the next few days as they arrived for duty.
At this time, I turned away from Chief and told Ofc. Norris and Ofc. Rodriguez that we needed to call all the officers and give them a heads up, and that I personally intended to do just that myself. Chief then left the station.
Ofc. Norris then told me that she and Ofc. Rodriguez had been called to town hall, where they were confronted by a crowd of people who were upset and angry, because the town was declaring a state of emergency, and the Chief was going to be in charge of everything. Ofc. Norris said she was so angry that Chief had let them walk into the situation blind, with no warning, that after the meeting, she followed him to the Eatery and confronted him in the parking lot. Ofc. Norris stated that the Chief told them to meet him at the station.
I called Sgt. Ponce and told him what had happened, and the reasons why Ofc. Norris was upset. I then mentioned to Sgt. Ponce the email we saw on Friday the 8th, 2011, and told him it was wrong of Chief not to warn us, since he obviously knew before the meeting occurred on the 10th. Sgt. Ponce also recalled the ewmail, and told me he would inform the other officers.
End. James C. Kemp

Statement by Officer Norris About “Emergency” Condition
On July 10th 2011, I was dispatched to 465 N Plymouth Road to the Quartzsite Town Hall in reference to suspicious activity. While en route dispatch said that they received a call from Ed Foster who advised that he was told he was to meet Chief Gilbert at Town Hall and it was suspicious. Upon arrival, I noticed a large amount of people in the parking lot of Town Hall. As I got out of my vehicle several people, including Ed Foster came up to myself and Officer Rodriguez. They were angry saying that an illegal meeting was going on and they were locked out and not allowed in town hall. Foster said that he was at home when Chief Gilbert and Xavier Fausto came and asked him to go with them to Town Hall for an emergency meeting. Foster said he refused to ride down with them but said drove to the Town Hall in his own vehicle. When he walked up to the doors of town hall he noticed all the council members and some of town hall staff were there having a meeting. Foster said it was an illegal meeting. He said Xavier Fausto opened the door and told Foster they were having an emergency meeting. Foster said he told them the meeting was not legal, was not open to the public and said he would not attend. He said Frausto refused to allow anyone to attend the meeting and he locked the door so no one could get inside the building. Foster said he wanted to file a complaint. After several attempts to contact Chief Gilbert and Sgt. Fausto, Officer Rodriguez contacted dispatch and requested assistance from a La Paz County Officer. An Officer from La Paz County Sheriff's Office arrived and talked to Officer Rodriguez and to Ed Foster. I was at the back of the building when the meeting ended and Chief Gilbert walked out. He told me not to allow anyone at the back of the building or in the rear parking lot. Chief Gilbert and Xavier Frausto then gave council members a ride home. I was confused as to what emergency was taking place because I had seen Chief Gilbert several times that morning. I was in the office earlier that day and Chief Gilbert walked in, went past me and into his office. He never said anything to me about an emergency. I had been passed multiple times by both Chief Gilbert and Xavier Frausto several times in different places while driving around town that morning and had attempted to call both of them several times but neither of them would answer. I felt if there was some type of emergency in town then Officer Rodriguez and I should be notified for safety reasons since we were the officers on duty at the time. I saw Chief Gilbert drive into the Main Street Eatery Restaurant and Laundry Mat.
I turned around and pulled into the parking lot. I asked Chief Gilbert if he could explain to me why there was a State of Emergency in Quartzsite. I told him I was upset that I and another officer had been on Duty for several hours today and not been notified of any emergency. If there was an emergency I felt for officer safety reasons, we should have been notified right away. Chief Gilbert said he had planned on telling us later but would go ahead and talk to us now. He said to meet him at our office. Officer Rodriguz and I met Chief Gilbert at the office. Officer Kemp had walked into the officer and joined our conversation. Chief Gilbert told us that Quartzsite Officials, Council Members, and Officers had received a lot of death threats via email in the past week and because of this a state of emergency had been called. I explained to Chief Gilbert that I was upset and I didn't feel it was right that he had enough death threats on Officers, Officials, and Council Members to cause a State of Emergency, yet he didn't notify his officers of this information. I explained to him that knowing the officers are the easiest targets because we can be easily identified, we should have been and could have easily been notified by him as soon as the death threats were received. Officer Michelle Norris

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