Paso Robles officer sues over ticket quota claim

A Paso Robles police officer filed a lawsuit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Friday against the city of Paso Robles alleging workplace retaliation he says resulted from a failure to meet illegal traffic-ticket quotas.

Jon Tatro, the Paso Robles Police Officers Association president and an officer with the department, filed a claim with the city Dec. 20 as a precursor to the lawsuit. That claim was rejected by the city around Jan. 4.

In early 2010, Tatro said, he was threatened with disciplinary action for falling below the number of expected monthly traffic citations and was told he did not meet “department expectations,” according to the lawsuit.

Police Chief Lisa Solomon declined to comment, saying she’d been advised by the city attorney not to speak about the suit.

The California Vehicle Code forbids law enforcement agencies from forcing officers to meet quotas for traffic citations. It also forbids law enforcement agencies from using the number of citations issued by an officer as the sole reason for promoting, demoting, reassigning, firing or otherwise disciplining an officer.

In September 2010, Tatro said he received a written reprimand for failing to meet department expectations for traffic enforcement, the suit alleges. He was also told that he faced suspension for a personnel complaint initiated the prior month.

Tatro brought the issue of “illegal quotas” to the city Human Resources Department and Solomon but was told by the HR director to “pursue this issue through Police Department command channels.” When the city failed to act, Tatro went to the Paso Robles branch of San Luis Obispo Superior Court with the same complaint.

Court personnel then contacted a captain with the Paso Robles Police Department, which prompted an internal investigation to be opened in March or early April 2011, according to the suit.

Tatro alleges that he faced retaliation from superiors who denied him good job assignments, blocked promotion opportunities and made false statements meant to damage his reputation.

Tatro is seeking unspecified damages for physical, mental and emotional injuries described as “anguish, fright, nervousness” and “shame, mortification, injured feelings,” among other hindrances.

He is also seeking unspecified money for loss of income and expenses for health care and related attorney fees.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.