New Orleans Cops Caught Filling Their Pockets With Red Light Camera Cash
from the that's-uptown,-throw-a-stack-at-'em dept
Red light cameras have proven popular in certain communities (mainly the "law enforcement community"). They're a rather painless way to generate cash, both for the city itself and for the private contractors chosen to install and maintain the system. This influx of cash tends to pervert incentives, leading to questionable tactics being deployed, like shortening yellow lights to increase the "take," while doing little to nothing to increase public safety.
While law enforcement usually benefits indirectly from this new revenue stream, the officers themselves rarely benefit directly from red light tickets. But where there's a will (and a lack of oversight), there's a way. Some enterprising police officers in New Orleans decided the incentives weren't perverse enough, and formed their own company to review photo citations.
Police officers in New Orleans, Louisiana filled their own pockets with red light camera cash by setting up a private company to "review" photo citations off the official clock. The city's inspector general, E. R. Quatrevaux, on Friday released a report documenting how Edwin Hosli, the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) 8th District commander, formed his own limited liability company called Anytime Solutions to take advantage of the lucrative business opportunity.The Inspector General noted it's illegal for law enforcement members to form an LLC in order to "manage a detail." Not only that, but the officers' actions violated ethics policies. The low-level corruption began when American Traffic Solutions subcontracted its photo reviews to Affiliated Computer Services, which oddly enough, already handled parking tickets for the city. The then-chief of police, Warren Riley, declared he couldn't spare on-duty officers to review the photo citations. A workaround presented itself when ATS subcontracted review duty to ACS, which then hired off-duty officers to review the collected photos. Robert Mendoza, head of the public works department, greased the wheels.
Over a four-and-a-half month period in 2010, Hosli pulled down $7420 from the arrangement for himself. The inspector general released documents not included in the report that show Hosli and several other officers overbilled ACS by $9075. Hosli's share of that was $2055, according to the documents.
Soon a handful of hand-picked officers ("Hosli's detail officers") were making money on the side, performing a task that was meant to be part of their normal on-duty workday. The officials involved with illegally enriching off-duty officers then went one step further, attempting to add another criminal charge to their rap sheets.
Officials meeting about the issue decided payments for the detail should be laundered through the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, a tax-exempt organization that describes itself as "dedicated to supporting the people and processes of the criminal justice system in New Orleans."Unfortunately for the involved personnel, ACS decided to pay them in a more straightforward (and implicating) fashion.
Instead, ACS paid Hosli's company directly. After investigators got wind of what happened, the kickbacks were terminated.The report notes that as soon as the officers were caught, they went back to doing it the right way.
"It should be noted that immediately upon notification, the NOPD placed the responsibility of the red light camera image review with on-duty traffic division officers," Quatrevaux concluded.Well, I suppose that makes everything OK. Wrongs righted by way of business as usual. Other than the "loss" of extra income, no further punishment has been dealt out to those involved. New Orleans will apparently continue to be policed by a combination of opportunists and their deputized cameras. The approval process is back in the hands of on-duty officers, which is an almost imperceptible tilt of the scale back towards "right." The perverse incentives remain, but those reaping the benefits will have to settle for routing it through official channels.