2/5/2010Florida: Highway Trooper Busted For Writing Fake Tickets
Florida Highway Patrol trooper accused of faking traffic citations to meet a ticket quota.
A Florida Highway Patrol trooper was charged Tuesday with issuing traffic tickets against motorists who had done nothing wrong. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle charged Trooper Paul C. Lawrence, a twelve-year veteran, with twenty-two counts of official misconduct, a third-degree felony.
Lawrence allegedly made up the violations and filed citations in the computer system between November and January. The victims never received a copy. Like most states facing budget troubles, trooper performance in Florida is measured primarily by the number of citations issued while on duty. Florida is unique in providing a direct financial incentive for individual police officers to issue tickets. The state taxes insurance premiums to fund police pensions. For example, an individual who pays a thousand dollars to insure his vehicle would pay $8.50 into the police fund annually. This premium, and the subsequent contribution to police, skyrockets after the motorist receives a traffic ticket. This in turn increases the take home pay of police officers by decreasing their contributions to the fund accordingly.
Lawrence's plot to boost his statistics unraveled when motorists began to have their licenses suspended for failure to pay the faux citations. Their complaints led to an investigation which determined that an unusual number of his traffic tickets were not signed by the alleged offenders. Many of the ticketed drivers could also prove that they were elsewhere at the time and date of the incident claimed on the citation.
"We all know that honesty and integrity are the central values of every effective police agency," Rundle said in a statement. "When an officer lies, he damages the reputation of his department and every one of his fellow officers. In Mr. Lawrence's case, he has also committed a crime. Now we all must work to undo the damage Mr. Lawrence created."
Rundle asked the county court to dismiss 85 traffic tickets that Lawrence had written over the past several months, many of which were issued to individuals had Hispanic surnames. The FHP is reviewing all of the citations that Lawrence has issued.