Several readers sent this editor a query about Gates Security, a popular and responsive private security company that patrols Pacific Palisades. The CEO of Gates is Scott Wagenseller. The patrol license was temporarily suspended until January 15 after a court administrative hearing ruling on October 17.
Gates has several licenses with the Department of Consumer Affairs – the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). Gates continues to operate as an alarm company with armed response and has partnered with Southwest Patrol to provide patrol services to Gates clients during the suspension.
Why was the patrol license suspended?
CTN contacted Wagenseller, who could not comment because of continuing legal appeals, but he did send the notice he sent to clients and he also sent also the administrative decision click here.
The original complaint came from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), a state agency, headed by Executive Director Joe Edmiston.
Gates was accused of putting “Ranger” on its vehicles and uniforms, which the State Consumer Affairs said would confuse citizens into thinking the private company was a city/state agency.
In May 2022, California Parks Ranger Darrell Readyhoff stopped a Gates Security vehicle driven by Wagenseller on the 101 Freeway in Calabasas.
Wagenseller, who served 20 years in the Navy in security forces and retired in April 2023, was pulled over because on the vehicle was the word “Ranger.”
Readyhoff observed long guns within the vehicle and asked Wagenseller for proof he could carry them. Wagenseller at the time had an expired and current card, gave the expired card, but Readyhoff never pointed out to Wagenseller he had given the wrong card. The expired card was on the filed report.
The “Ranger” case came before an administrative court in November 2022, but was dismissed.
In April 2023, the California Department of Consumer Affairs (Bureau of Security and Investigative Services) received anonymous complaints alleging that Gates Security operated in a manner “giving the impression it is connected with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.”
Among the complaints received was one made in February 2023 by (MRCA) Ranger Walt Young. Before he retired from MRCA, Young undertook an “investigation” into Gates, including looking at social media posts.
Young’s “screen grabs” showed a Gates security personnel with the word “ranger” on his back, some security cars failed to have “security patrol,” there appeared to be long gun on a dashboard and one of the Gates guys was wearing a gold star-shaped shield with the text “@gs.ranger.patrol out again on trespassing issues.”
At a May 2023 hearing of BSIS against Gates, Young then put side by side photos of Gates Security cars, and vehicles operated by U.S. Border Patrol and California Peace Officers and the Los Angeles Police Department.
Administrative Law Judge Cindy Forman heard the petition and said Gates needed to make sure the vehicles had “Private Security” on them, within 10 days, and that the lettering could be read 50 feet away.
No employee was to openly carry a shotgun or rifle while on duty and all guards had to have uniforms that had Bureau-approved patches on both shoulders identifying they worked for Gates Security.
On June 22, 2023, Consumer Service Investigator (BSIS) Adam Diehl performed undercover investigations and visited a parking lot in Pacific Palisades where Gates routinely parks vehicles and found six vehicles had not been painted with “private security” and took a photo.
A week later, Diehl broadened his investigation to Old Conejo Road in Newbury Park and observed six vehicles, none of which had “private security” and photographed the cars.
Testifying at the fall 2023 Consumer Affairs hearing, was Edmiston who said he had received several anonymous complaints, but could not produce the complaints, the dates or the times.
Darrell Readyhoff, a senior ranger with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, stated he had seen several Gates vehicles bearing “Ranger Patrol” signage on several occasions. He did not produce photographs.
According to the transcript from that hearing, Readyhoff said the vehicle he stopped did have the required signage identifying it as private patrol, but that the font was too small to be seen from 50 feet. Readyhoff took a photograph of the vehicle from the approximate distance to demonstrate the inadequate font size.
The reasoning for not allowing “Ranger” on the vehicle was that some residents might be confused that this was an actual government entity and not a private security company.
According to a transcript from the hearing, security companies are not allowed to be “force multipliers,” a term used by numerous law enforcement agencies. (There are 420 L.A. City Parks and 22 Park Rangers and there is only the Los Angeles Police Department Beach Detail that operates with any regularity in Pacific Palisades.)
Section 7582.1 subdivision (b) prohibits a person licensed as a private patrol operator from undertaking investigations “except those that are incidental to the theft, loss, embezzlement, misappropriation or concealment of any property, or any other thing enumerated in this section, which he or she has been hired or engaged to protect, guard or watch.”
Diehl testified that Gates Security officers were not permitted to assist public safety officials and that any action was considered interference with public safety. He testified that private security was restricted to servicing their clients only. Community service and public service was not permitted by BSIS and was considered impersonation of a peace officer.
Wagenseller submitted letters of support from fire and police departments, which have worked with Gates Security.
But the complainant maintained that Gates acted beyond the scope of its authority and its guards insinuated themselves in police business at incidents occurring on a non-client property.
The tenth cause for discipline alleged that Gates impersonated law enforcement officers by having “Ranger” on uniforms and cars.
Rangers is not a copyrighted term and is used by the Army Rangers, the Boy Scouts, the Ford Ranger, the Texas Rangers and the New York Rangers.
The administrative judge gave Gates a 60-day suspension and placed the company on probation. The company also had to pay $5,000 for investigation costs and costs of prosecuting the case.
The company has applied for a hearing in Superior Court.