Private firm is appealing suspension handed down after allegation made by MRCA officials
By Barbara Burke
Special to The Malibu Times
Gates Security, a private security company that offers services in Malibu under the moniker Malibu Patrol, has resumed full operations for clients in Malibu and nearby communities, according to the company’s CEO, Scott Wagenseller.
He explained that the company’s license to operate was suspended for 60 days by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Security, and Investigative Services after an administrative hearing on Oct. 17, 2023. The hearing addressed, among other things, an allegation that, by using the term “ranger patrol,” Gates operated so as to give “the impression that it is connected with a federal, state or local law enforcement.”
Among other complaints at issue in the hearing was one made in February 2023 by Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority Ranger Walt Young, now retired. Young investigated Gates, reviewing the company’s social media posts. He reported that there was a Gates security employee with the word “Ranger” on the back of his shirt, that some of Gates’ security cars did not have a statement that the cars were available for “security patrol,” and with regard to one of Gates’ vehicles, there appeared to be a long gun on a dashboard. Finally, Young determined that one of Gates’ security personnel was wearing a gold, star-shaped shield with the text “@gs.ranger.patrol out again on trespassing issues.”
At a May 2023 BSIS hearing, Young juxtaposed photos of Gates Security cars and vehicles belonging to the U.S. Border Patrol, the Los Angeles Police Department and the California Peace Officers Association.
Administrative law judge Cindy Forman ordered Gates to ensure within 10 days that the company’s vehicles had “Private Security” printed on them. Forman also ordered that a person had to be able to read the lettering with that statement from a distance of 50 feet. She also mandated that no employee was to openly carry a shotgun or rifle while on duty and all guards had to have uniforms that bear the patches approved by the Bureau on both shoulders identifying they were with Gates Security.
At the October 2023 Consumer Affairs hearing, MRCA Executive Director Joe Edmiston testified that he had received several anonymous complaints about the issues before the administrative tribunal. However, Edmiston could not produce the complaints or the dates and times he received them. Darrell Readyhoff, a California Department of Parks and Recreation ranger, said that he had seen several Gates vehicles with “Ranger Patrol” signage several times, but he did not produce any photographs to document his claim.
According to the administrative hearing transcript, security companies are not allowed to be “force multipliers,” a phrase used in law enforcement circles. and Section 7582.1(b) of the applicable code 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 for which he or she has been hired or engaged to protect, guard or watch.”
The Administrative Judge noted that the use of the term “ranger” is prohibited because members of the public could confuse Gates, a private security company, with an official government vehicle. The judge gave Gates a 60-day suspension and placed the company on probation. She also ordered Gates to pay $5,000 for the investigation costs and the costs of prosecuting the case.
“Joe Edmiston took umbrage that we were using the term ‘ranger’ on some of our vehicles,” Wagenseller told The Malibu Times. “He and Walt Young created an egregious narrative against us.”
Wagenseller stated, “We made overtures to settle, but they wanted us to sign a settlement agreement admitting guilt and agreeing to the revocation of all of our licenses, one each for patrol, training, and alarms. We have an alarm license to respond to alarms going off and to install alarms. My alarm company wasn’t even involved in their allegations.”
Wagenseller recounted an incident in May 2022 when he was driving in his Ford Bronco and was carrying a longarm: “Park Ranger Readyhoff initially cited me for improperly having the weapon, but I carry federal credentials to have the weapon because I am in Navy Security operations. Therefore, the judge dismissed the allegation.” Wagenseller explained that federal law enforcement officials are exempt from state law requirements regarding having weapons.
“I learned that Joe Edmiston is responsible for a little-known law about the use of the term ‘ranger’ in private security firms,” Wagenseller said, adding, “Joe Edmiston is the only one who has complained about our company and, indeed, our officers spent a week helping officials from MRCA and the State Land Department when they needed help to keep hikers, mountain bikers, and visitors away from a burn area. We donated our time and we do so on a regular basis.”
Wagenseller notes that his company helps the City of Malibu and the Malibu Navy League with Navy Days and he stated, “we are glad to be of service.”
Wagenseller noted, “Joe Edmiston contracts MRCA’s security services with municipalities and agencies and apparently perceived our company as a competitor. I find it highly objectionable that he would use his state agency authority to cut down a competitor.”
Wagenseller is seeking reversal of the entire administrative ruling.
“We are appealing the administrative ruling to Los Angeles Superior Court,” Wagenseller told The Malibu Times on Jan. 30, adding, “We are challenging all bases set forth in the administrative law judge’s ruling.”
According to Wagenseller, a conference hearing is scheduled for the end of this month and during that hearing, a date will be set for the Superior Court proceedings.
Joe Edmiston and MRCA did not respond to The Malibu Times’ request for an interview or comments as of press time.