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Gil Carrillo Becomes the City of San Fernando's Interim Police Chief Will He Become Permanent? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez, Editor   
Thursday, 12 April 2012 02:30

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

Gil Carrillo

As reported by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol last week, Gil Carrillo has come out of retirement to take the controversial job as the city of San Fernando's interim police chief.

Retiring in 2009, Carrillo had enjoyed a long 38-year career in law enforcement rising to the rank of Lieutenant with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. In 1985, he received nationwide attention and much praise as the co-lead detective in the infamous Richard Ramirez "Night Stalker" case that included a book and movie.

Despite his notoriety and credentials, San Fernando residents are taking a wait-and-see position as the decision to hire Carrillo as the interim chief. For them, it was another end run, and added to a long list of broken promises and questionable back room deals.

In Part 1 of this interview, Carrillo said he "could not remember the guy's name" who contacted him about the job. He emphasized that his contract as interim chief is for only six months, and he said if after six months he was not wanted by the city, residents or council members that he not sign the contract to continue permanently.

"If they want me out of Dodge … I would be the first one not to sign the contract. I would not go into somebody's house where I'm not welcomed," Carrillo said.

Residents are currently holding a petition drive to remove the council majority of new Mayor Brenda Esqueda, former mayor Mario Hernandez and Councilmember Maribel De La Torre.

The council majority supported hiring Carrillo, while the other two council members, Antonio Lopez and Sylvia Ballin, were kept in the dark and were not informed of the discussion to bring Carrillo in as interim chief.

Residents questioned the wisdom of the city incurring more expense. The city continues to pay Lt. Jeff Eley, who has had a long career at the SFPD and was the interim chief. Lt. Eley was placed on paid administrative leave after being accused of ticket fixing which some believe was a political set up. They believe Eley would not bend to the demands of the city administrator or the council majority and had fallen out of political favor.

Several serious problems persist at San Fernando City Hall and the SFPD. Eley requested an outside Sheriff's department investigation on his case and has retained legal representation, as has former Sgt. Nichole Hanchett, who maintains that she was unlawfully terminated. The Hanchett lawsuit blows the whistle on the SFPD and indicates that the procedure to conduct jail checks was not followed and documents were doctored on the day when an inmate died in an SFPD jail cell. Eley had replaced Chief Anthony Ruelas, following news of Ruelas' scandalous affair with a former police cadet.

Members of the Police Officers Association said they would support Carrillo and extend professional courtesy as he adjusts to his new role. At the same time, residents and police officers alike will be watching to see what actions Carrillo will take to put the department on track.

This week the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol Newspaper publishes Part 2 of the interview held with Editor Diana Martinez and Carrillo. One change that Carrillo has already successfully accomplished is to be able to directly interface with media. Previously, City Administrator, Al Hernandez, who also acts as the city's official public information officer, was required to approve media interviews and Hernandez has not been readily available to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol.

SFV SUN/El Sol: Would you describe yourself as a straight shooter?

Carrillo: Oh, absolutely. When you asked early on some questions about the process, he process was done by the city, not by me. I was merely the candidate.

SFV Sun/El Sol: Why does your watch commander Sgt. Alvaro Castellon need to be at city council meetings, taking pictures of the proceedings and of his girlfriend and new Mayor Brenda Esqueda? Will he continue to be at council meetings?

Carrillo: My first official case was probably nine o'clock that night, when they said, "You are now the Chief." At that time there were probably, I think, four or five people there. Before then, I was not the chief. There was an interim chief, Bob Parks. I had no idea why anybody was there. What I later learned, there was a reserve officer there on voluntary time. And I thought, with the crowd that was upset, they thought there was going to be a problem. They'd have more [police], not just two officers there. I don't know I'm surmising. We never discussed it, that acting Chief Parks had requested that they'd be there. I don't know. People will be there as needed, when I'm in charge. I wasn't in charge that night.

SFV Sun/El Sol: Will Sgt. Castellon continue to be there?

Carrillo: If I find a need for him to be there, he will. If I don't find a need for him to be there, he won't.

SFV Sun/El Sol: I was previously told that Castellon, as the watch commander and now as the night watch commander, can determine where he is needed and wants to be at any given time. But it has raised concerns, as residents have noted his confrontational behavior at council meetings and the conflict of interest that his affair with new Mayor Brenda Esqueda has posed. He has been criticized for extending special police favors and privileges to Esqueda and her family and people have complained about his actions.

Carrillo: If somebody were to see him doing some things that were unprofessional and they thought they were wrong, then it's time to come into the station. I don't know what kind of citizen complaint system we have in place. But I guarantee you, I'm going to address that. I'm going to address that immediately, because, in light of the fact that his name has popped up, that he's doing this. I will have to deal with it if it continues.

I had a meeting with my officers the other night. I said the job that I'm doing, I equate to being the father. I'm the father of three, with my youngest being 34, and the other two being 37 and 40. I love being a father, but I hated being a father when it came to discipline. My kids never did anything major, they just did stuff, kind of like Beaver Cleaver. As a father you can't let it go, otherwise stuff becomes major problems. So they have to be disciplined. But, as their father, I love each and every one of them. But there has to be a time, as much as I hate as I have to enforce it, that I have to make a statement. There has to be consequences, whether it's a reprimand to more severe forms of discipline. If it's a problem, and more than one person alleges that it is happening, well then we have to address it. That's what I'm there for. [Although] remember, my contract is only six months.

SFV Sun/El Sol: You are interested in the job on a permanent basis at this point?

Carrillo: Oh, most assuredly. [Councilmember] Antonio Lopez, said he missed seeing six months, but it is six months, that's what the contract's for. I didn't put in the six months. The city council worked it out on paper. The realities of the retired world, as soon as I said I'm going to back to work, everybody said "Why?"

My friends are so happy, they're so excited and so proud. They said, "Gil, there's your opportunity." They have all the confidence in the world. [They said] "You know, you can turn it around. Once you do, a bigger department is going to ask you to come over. You know, that happens all the time. There have already been inquiries."

I told Mr. Lopez, my response to my friends has been, "No, if we can turn this thing around, that means I'll have bonded with the troops and I'll have started bonding with some of the residents. I wouldn't want to leave, wouldn't want to go to a bigger department. Why? To start all over, do this all over again? No.

I was enjoying retirement as it was. This would be good. The only thing that would make me quit is the drive. I'd get tired of the drive. The county is a big county, and the older you get the more you disliked the drive through the large county when I worked homicide. I live in Rowland Heights, which is a 45-50 minute drive with no traffic, and with traffic it's 1 ½ hour drive. I get up at 5 a.m. So as long as I can hold on to the drive, I have no intentions of going anywhere. I'd love to stay here. I'm so excited, I'm so proud. I'm going to wear my [SFPD Chief's]uniform proudly.

San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol: People have said that you have indicated that you always wanted to be a chief [of police].

Carrillo: To be honest with you, before I retired, I wanted to be the Chief of Police of a small agency. Whether it be a city or maybe a college or a school district, I wanted a start, I wanted to be a chief. I wanted to have my children, my cops. Then, when I saw all the small cities starting to run into trouble – Bell Gardens, Montebello, Fullerton, Baldwin Park, all these small cities started running into problems. I said, "I really don't want it." I called Alhambra and said, "I really don't want to do it." So, why would I jump into this mess voluntarily? So, I let it go.

This time [San Fernando] came to me. They asked me. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. They were asking me. I didn't have to go do anything. There it was, and I took it. I told my wife, "I'm concerned – what if I get stressed out?" My parents told my wife, "Well, there he goes. You're never going to see him again." And I assured her, no, that's not the case. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. I'm not going to let anybody push me around. I hope it works out. I look forward to it. It's something I've wanted, it's a dream come true. I'm secure in my masculinity, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't cried over this at some point.

SFV Sun/El Sol: I'm sorry, I don't understand that.

Carrillo: I'm secure in who I am, but I've got to tell you I've shed tears over this thing, tears of joy. And I've had well-wishers from all over the United States. I'm so overwhelmed by the amount of people that are sending me well wishes, telling me "this is good, you're what the city needed." So I look forward to the challenge. I believe things are going to be turned around. Once people get to know me, hopefully they'll see, whether in anybody's eyes whether it's the wrong way to do it, the right way to do it whatever happens, I just hope that they see that somehow it worked out as best.

SFV Sun/El Sol: This is your first time in the chief's chair. Do you feel that you have the knowledge, management skill and the general skill set? People have made the point that you do need to know something about labor law, that you do need to know how to run a department. You referred to wanting to have "your children," do you view this job in a paternalistic way? Can you respond to some of these points?

Carrillo: I was assigned to Sheriff Lee Baca directly for four years out of my career. As such, I was doing the job of an executive. I took over for three commanders. I was doing one as a sergeant. He told me personally, you're doing a commander's job.

Regarding labor law, I was on the board of directors of the union myself, and asked to run for president, asked to be the president. I wouldn't do it because I didn't want to leave homicide and the Sheriff's department; it's a full time job. They actually pick up their salaries and you're on loan. I have led a task force the size of 250 people.

Do I think I can do the job? Absolutely. If I didn't think I could do the job, I wouldn't have accepted it. So I don't know what it would take. There comes a point in time where people take over as chief of police, I believe. The gentleman that was before (me) had never been a chief of police. The man before him, Eley, he had never been a chief of police. So I don't know what skills, other than what I possess, it takes to run a department. But they were prepared to do it. The realities are that with everything I've got behind me, I certainly believe I can do it. Part of that job is being able to communicate inter personally, not only with the members of your department but with the public and the media.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 12 April 2012 20:08