While much has been written lately here and by other news outlets about overtime abuse by Louisiana State Police (LSP), particularly on that infamous trip to San Diego back in October, there is a program whereby State Troopers may legitimately accrue overtime through an agreement with local district attorneys
The Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE) detail is a program established pursuant to an agreement between LSP and the district attorneys whereby fines collected by the local criminal court fund may be used to pay State Troopers overtime pay for additional highway patrols for traffic enforcement.
Prior to implementing a LACE program, the local law enforcement, judges and district attorneys must agree to implement the program, and the criminal court fund authorized by Louisiana R.S. 15:571.11(L) may be used to fund the overtime pay off-duty police officers to provide law enforcement services.
In 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, Louisiana State Police issued 120,437 speeding citations on LACE and 68,932 on regular duty, according to the 2012 annual report of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. With these combined resources, Louisiana experienced a 10.46 percent decrease in speed-related fatalities in 2011.
The program has not been without controversy as LouisianaVoice has found troopers, particularly in Troop D in Lake Charles, who were allowed to work LACE while suspended from regular duty for disciplinary reasons.
But what happens when a local district attorney signs on to the program and then doesn’t pay State Police for the overtime?
Well, since the troopers performed the work, they must be paid so the money comes from the LSP budget instead of from fines collected by the local jurisdiction as was the original intent.
That’s exactly what has happened in St. Landry Parish where the parish is in arrears by more than $290,000 for 11 months, from March 2016 through January of this year.
Because of the district attorney’s failure to pay, LSP has suspended LACE activity for St. Landry Parish.
The monthly amounts owed LSP by St. Landry District Attorney Earl Taylor range from $17,870 for August 2016 to $39,392 for January of this year, according to a month-by-month accounting provided by LSP pursuant to a LouisianaVoice public records request.
Charles Cravins, formerly the regional director for the Fourth Congressional District, serves as Taylor’s Chief Administrative Officer, lending credence to the idea that he would be the one to see that the bills are paid. The District Attorney’s Web page boasts, that Cravins’ “extensive administrative experience” and his background in public service “makes him well equipped to handle the day-to-day operations of the D.A.’s office.”
So how did St. Landry manage to get 11 months in arrears (not counting February or March of this year)?
“I have no idea,” said LSP public information officer Maj. Doug Cain.
Could it be because so many cases are nolle prossed?
“No way,” says a retired State Trooper. “With the income they generate from tickets, they have plenty of money to pay LSP.”
He’s probably right, considering I-49 runs through St. Landry which provides a ready-made money machine for traffic courts from Lafayette to Shreveport.
Perhaps a better question is why did LSP allow Taylor to ignore his obligations for long while continuing to assign troopers to LACE duty in St. Landry?
Perhaps Taylor is about to make efforts to finally bring his account current.
In a two-page letter to Taylor dated March 22—two days before State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s retirement took effect—LSP Assistant Secretary and General Counsel Gene Cicardo referenced a payment schedule the district apparently has agreed to. Cicardo asked that Taylor sign and return a copy of the letter “to memorialize our agreement” so that LSP may be paid for its work and so that it may reinstate the LACE program for St. Landry.