Traffic Ticket Fiasco

I read two similar versions on this story from Miami, Florida, and beyond the obvious issue, there is another significant problem within the Florida Highway Patrol not being discussed:



(Miami-Dade County) - The trooper's victims were befuddled when they learned they had pending traffic tickets.

Most weren't even on the road during the time of their supposed infractions, they told prosecutors.

One said his wife was driving the car that day. Another had just returned from a trip to Illinois. A third hadn't even been in the United States for two years -- he was in the midst of a divorce dispute in Peru.

Now the Florida Highway Patrol trooper who issued those tickets is being written up himself, accused of trying to boost his ticket output by writing hundreds of fake citations to scores of drivers.

Paul C. Lawrence, 38, an FHP trooper based in Miami-Dade County, was arrested Tuesday on 22 counts of official misconduct, a third-degree felony. In addition, 203 traffic citations that Lawrence issued since November have been dismissed.

Prosecutors think there may be even more.

In each case, Lawrence used information from drivers whom he had previously stopped. Then he manufactured new charges. The citations were not signed by the alleged drivers.

Prosecutors said Lawrence started writing the false tickets to boost the number of citations he was reporting to his bosses.

In November alone, he submitted 397 citations to FHP -- 82 of them missing a signature (emphasis added)...

Capt. Marshall Davies, of Troop E in Miami-Dade County, noticed something was amiss two days before Thanksgiving, documents show. That day, five people called to complain they were being solicited by traffic ticket clinics for citations they knew nothing about...
One essential role of police field supervisors is to review the paperwork/electronic documents submitted by troopers/officers. Not every document requires a supervisory signature, but every item should have a second and third set of eyes on it before being sent for processing.

Since a driver refusing to sign a ticket does happen sometimes, but is considered a rarity, how do 21% (82) of Trooper Lawrence's tickets for November 2009 being unsigned by the cited "drivers" go unnoticed by his supervisors?

It is embarrassing enough for this to undermine the authority of the other good troopers that work for the agency, but to read that the problem was not identified internally by supervisors reviewing paperwork, but by a Captain after he had to handle five citizens calling on the same day is disturbing.

What if only one or two folks called to complain?

Would the Captain have considered the possibility that the trooper was at fault or that the "drivers" were simply confused or lying?

This troubling story reveals a glaring problem with oversight within the agency.

I hope that the director of the Florida Highway Patrol, Colonel John Czernis, holds the feet of this trooper's supervisors to the fire and makes them explain, in uncomfortable face-to-face exchanges, how this problem went unnoticed for so long.

Citizens expect and deserve professionalism in policing.

It will take years for FHP to recover from this serious yet preventable (at least to the extent it did occur) breach of the public's trust.

26 comments:

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Miami-Dade makes me think of CSI: Miami!!! I'm surprised only 5 people called out of 82+!?! I would definately have called had this been me.

Expat From Hell said...

Not to mention those of us who are too intimidated to "press" law enforcement when we get a ticket. These days, with cameras at each intersection, you have to scroll back to the day when you thought you might have committed the infraction. I can only imagine what would have gone through the guy's mind who was in Peru. This was terrific. Who needs Joseph Wambaugh when we have SlamDunks! EFH

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I would have gone crazy wondering what had happened to my memory.

Ann T.

suzicate said...

That is totally dispicable!

diaryfromscotland said...

This officer 'tarnishes' the character of all Law Enforcement officers.

They have a difficult and often dangerous role to perform without the actions of this individual.

Luisa Doraz said...

Trust is a hard thing for some of us to accept. Things like this do not help any. Thanks for sharing this.

Natalie said...

How frustrating that a few ruins it for all, therefore allowing the stereotype to maintain that cops are out there to get us. Double standards around us are the hardest pill to swallow for my hubby as well as for myself as a police wife.

Completely unrelated, I gave you a blog award. I wish it wasn't kinda girly, but you don't have to do it. I'm just letting you know I appreciate reading your posts and how faithful you are to comment back on mine. It really means a lot!

Iva said...

UGH!!! SO FRUSTRATING!!!


Happy Friday!! Have a great weekend!

Conquer The Monkey said...

crazy!!!
also thanks for stopping by my blog!
I am a new follower to you now!

Cheers,
Cameron
www.conquerthemonkey.com

J. J. in Phila said...

I've had three parking tickets since I've lived in Philadelphia. I've challenged two of them. Both challenges were successful.

The lesson: you snooze, you lose.

Linz said...

yikes. florida's on the other side of the country for me, but this can happen anywhere. i live in LA, and our police force is not exactly known for its honesty.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

Yup, totally annoying. I swear... Government agencies have so many problems.

LadyFi said...

Oh dear! I imagine that many people don't think it's worth contesting traffic tickets .. takes too much time and energy.

Audrey Allure said...

it really is such a shame when people abuse their authority for their own well-being & hurting others at the same time.

Bob G. said...

Slamdunk:
Guess there is something to be said for the statement:

Question Everything!

(Especially in times like THESE)

The police should be there to PROTECT AND SERVE...NOT "neglect and subvert".

Reviews of the "paper" trail NEED to be done...and frequently, given the amount of data collected these days.

Keep those hits comin', SD!

terri said...

What is this guy's problem? He's not expected to meet a quota, so what was his incentive?

And I really can't understand why so few of the victims called.

Crazy.

traceepersiko said...

that seems so crazy that a fake ticket would happen. wow! i would think that more people would've complained of that. crazy!

Holly said...

It is so sad when officers like this taint the image of entire departments and other officers.

Tamanna A. Shaikh said...

I admit, I have to re-read and re-read your posts to truly be able to comment because I'm quite impressed that you visited my blog and commented on the post "Ekphrasis". Really appreciate it. Thank you so much!! :)

--Tamanna

Oz Girl said...

These are the kinds of things that cause us to lose faith in those that are supposed to be protecting us! These "bad eggs" make it difficult for us citizens to trust our police. Shame on him.

BobKat said...

Thank-you Slam... that was informative and I appreciate your sense of justice. Being a commuter i don't need troopers pulling me over to raise their ticket quota.

Luisa Doraz said...

A SUNSHINE AWARD FOR YOU ON MY BLOG.....

Amanda West said...

Gah. That's scary.

We've had five or six cops in my county fired for sleeping with female inmates at the jail.

And I'm just like, "What the crap?"

Makes me wonder if you can trust anyone anymore.

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer & Crazy Woman said...

Ugh. All I got on that!

chrystal said...

It saddens me every time I hear of corruption cropping up again. Perhaps I ascribe to the "unfair" belief that people in positions of authority should hold themselves to a higher standard--that whole pesky, "to whom much is given, much is required" thing.

And it's just going to get worse....

Thanks for bringing stories like this to the forefront!

MONICA-LnP said...

all it takes is one bad apple to make everyone think all LEO's are the same!
what a lazy ass,oops sorry.