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5/10/2012
State, Feds Bust Cops for Faking Overtime Requests
Police officers in Texas and Washington forced to resign after prosecutors charge them with falsifying ticket numbers and overtime.

William B. GardinerPolice officers around the country are being caught fudging citation statistics in order to boost their take-home pay. On Tuesday, the King County, Washington Prosecuting Attorney filed charges against recently retired Lieutenant William B. Gardiner alleging the 25-year veteran lied about his overtime to pad his salary up to $163,000 in 2010.

Soon after allegations against Gardiner were made public in October 2011, Gardiner retired. At the time, the Washington State Patrol Lieutenants Association defended the overtime he took as within agency guidelines.

"It is unfortunate that the Washington State Patrol has decided to dedicate taxpayer monies to a criminal investigation when Lieutenant Gardiner's overtime was reviewed throughout the year," the police union said in a statement. "For Lieutenant Gardiner, the actions of the WSP will leave a cloud over his retirement after 25 years of dedicated service rather than appreciating his service to the citizens."

Gardiner is far from alone. Over the course of the year, twenty-five police officers in El Paso have been busted by the US Department of Transportation's inspector general and the Texas Department of Transportation for submitting bogus overtime requests and lying about the number of traffic tickets issued to meet the de facto ticket quota standard set by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grant program. Last month, a jury in El Paso, Texas indicted Edward Nicholas and Enrique Davila on multiple counts of tampering with a government record.

Grants are big business for local police. El Paso's department collects $15,670,354 from various federal and state sources. Two full-time staffers are dedicated to securing and managing grants. In a November report, the city auditor reported the Selective Traffic Enforcement Grant program's oversight status was "poor." Lawyers for the indicted officers blamed the program that funds a ticketing blitz.

"The terms of these grants outline goals or more accurately 'quotas' that the officer is 'encouraged to meet,'" attorneys Theresa Caballero and Stuart Leeds wrote in a January letter. "For example, the grants say an officer should write three tickets an hour or an officer shall make one arrest for DWI while working the DWI STEP. TXDOT will say that these are not 'mandatory' goals or in plain language quotas and therefore they are not illegal."

Because of the pressure to meet the quotas to achieve the expected funding levels, the lawyers argued the top brass in the department approved various techniques used to shift tickets and arrests onto the grant time clock.

"Now the brass is running for the hills and leaving the hapless street cop exposed for following orders," Caballero and Leeds wrote.

The same problem has hit Fort Worth where, last month, James McDade became the ninth police officer to be indicted as part of an alleged overtime scheme. In March 2011, the Fort Worth City Council approved reimbursing the Texas Department of Transportation $231,000 in grant money that had been used to pay the bogus overtime.




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