A couple months back I wrote a satire for FlashReport regarding West Hollywood passing a law banning fire places. About half the readers found it plausible and were fooled into believing it was true. Though that scenario was contrived but seemed real to many, the situation I write about today is utterly real yet one beyond the imagination of most people before now.
Here are the basic facts:
1. The West Traffic Division of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) created a traffic ticket quota for officers. The quota required officers to write 18 traffic tickets each shift with 80% of those tickets being for what are considered major violations.
2. Police Officers who participated in this scheme sued the city because of the harm done to them by being forced to participate in this quota system.
3. The prior city attorney (Carmen Trutanich) spent at least $2.4 million on outside legal counsel fighting this case.
4. The City Council of Los Angeles in executive session with the new City Attorney (Mike Feuer) unanimously agreed to a settlement of $5.9 million being paid to 11 police officers for the unstated harm that these officers suffered.
The only fact stated above that might be in dispute is that the Police Department, through a credible source, has stated they believe all the tickets issued were legitimate and the City Council should not have settled the case. The other salient fact is the supervising officer – Captain Nancy Lauer — was actually promoted to a new position.
After reading about this matter, I decided to write this column and developed a series of questions I felt you would be interested in having answered:
1. How exactly were these police officers harmed to warrant being paid $5.9 million? If they were not harmed, why did the City Council pay them the $5.9 million?
2. Did the LAPD issue an apology to taxpayers who were victims of this traffic ticket quota system? If not, are they intending to and when?
3. Is any effort being made to recompense the taxpayers who were caught up in the ticket quota scheme? They paid traffic fines and potentially traffic school costs and/or increased insurance costs because of the quota system. Is anyone considering how the taxpayers were harmed?
4. Why has Captain Nancy Lauer not been fired because of her responsibility in this debacle? Why was she promoted?
I drew up a list of parties involved in this matter to address these questions to:
1. Steve Soboroff – President of the Los Angeles Police Commission
2. Richard Tefank – Executive Director of the Los Angeles Police Commission
3. Herb Wesson, President of the Los Angeles City Council
4. Mitch Englander, Member of Los Angeles City Council
5. Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney
Both Wesson and Feuer’s spokespersons responded. The other three did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. They did not even provide a spokesperson to tell us what the two for Wesson and Feuer stated. Both spokesmen said that because this agreement was done in executive session, that they could make no comment. When asked about questions that had nothing to do with the executive session — like why Nancy Lauer was promoted and not fired — they still refused to answer.
To be clear, the city council handed out $5.9 million to 11 police officers for issuing traffic tickets. The city council determined that the situation was so egregious that they would lose a court case and therefore settled. They settled in such a way that they shielded themselves from making any public comment about this matter.
Silly me, but I think the people who were really harmed were the people who were issued the tickets that the City Council by their settlement has clearly stated are questionable. I cannot think how these police officers were personally harmed. If they were being oppressed unfairly, they should have banded together and gone to their union and filed complaints. Instead they banded together and sued the city to profiteer on the matter.
Only in the universe of the City of Los Angeles would this happen. Taxpayers suffer from illegal abuse by the police and then the police are paid a huge settlement for being the abusers. Thus, the taxpayers are penalized a second time. Is there any logic here?
The only thing one can deduce is that the people of Los Angeles keep electing the people who make these decisions. They are getting the government they wanted. Some of us believe we are getting the shaft.
Bruce Bialosky is a long-time political activist and FR friend. Bialosky is a former National Treasurer of the Republican Jewish Coalition and helped to found the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Southern California Chapter.