Quartzsite officer speaks out on town government retribution
Quartzsite, Arizona August 4, 2011 - Sgt. WilliamPonce says it's not easy exposing wrong doings when it comes to local government officials.
"When you're a whistle-blower, nobody wants to hear you. They want to close their ears and close their eyes," says Ponce. "They don't want to hear the truth. Then suddenly, once these things start coming out and people start reading about it or watching it on TV, you're a target now."
Ponce says the town of Quartzsite continues to make life difficult for the officers placed on administrative leave despite La Paz County's restraining order that makes it unlawful.
"People who have never been reprimanded or written up in the entire time that they've been employed by the police department are now getting written reprimands, verbal reprimands and told next time you do this, you're going to be terminated," says Ponce. "There's no progressive discipline now. Suddenly they just want to terminate people based off of these little tiny issues that have occur red. They are targeting the officers and that's unfortunate."
Ponce believes the town government's actions created a negative culture, which not only affected morale within the Quartzsite Police Department, but for its citizens as well.
"I feel like we're in a bubble and we can't get out because these people have developed this mentality of do as I say, not as I do and I'm the boss," says Ponce. "I told you to do this now carry out my order. So now we started to question these orders and now things have gone awry."
Ponce believes Police Chief Jeff Gilbert created a hostile work environment for his officers by giving unlawful orders, something the Quartzsite 10 (the officers put on administrative leave) say they won't stand by.
"He can't control us and we won't adhere to his orders because they aren't true," says Ponce. "They're evil and they are based off of political motivation."
According to Ponce, the town government targeted citizens to keep them in check. And they wanted to keep it that way.
"They don't want the truth to come out. They don't want the outside individuals, entities, governments to come and take a look at what's going on because they've been able to run this town this way for so long," says Ponce. "And now that we brought this to light, they're in fear of what's going to come out of this. And I'm glad we finally stepped up and are telling our story so it can be heard because it needs to be out there. You can't continue to treat people in the manner in which you're treating them, whether it be employees or citizens, you have to treat people in a good way. Respect is not demanded. Respect is earned. And if you don't treat people with respect, then you're not going to get respect."
Others can learn much from the residents of Quartzsite. Ponce says you have to keep your eyes and ears open and get involved.
"People need to pay attention to what's going on in Quartzsite because I don't think this is an isolated situation," says Ponce. "I think this is happening all over the country in different levels, from the top at the federal government level all the way to the bottom, you know, small town America like Quartzsite. So people, take control and pay attention to what's going on in your city government."
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