Last Modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 6:00 PM
A recently filed lawsuit alleges the police force for a small Louisiana town routinely broke the law when manning a speed trap along Interstate 10.
The class-action lawsuit alleges that members of the Henderson Police Department operated under a quota system in writing speeding tickets — a direct violation of state law. The suit also alleges that the speed trap, set up to snare westbound traffic coming off the Atchafayala Spillway, was outside the town’s limits and, therefore, beyond the Police Department’s jurisdiction.
Last month, prosecutors filed charges of malfeasance and filing false public records against Henderson Police Chief Leroy Guidry and Deputy Chief Oliver Mack Lloyd.
Breaux Bridge attorney Glenn Soileau, who filed the class-action suit, said the Police Department set up at the foot of the spillway bridge in an effort to snare drivers before the 60 miles per hour speed limit changed to 70 mph. The suit alleges the area is outside the town limits Henderson Mayor Sherbin Collette said the town limits were altered several years ago to include the base of the bridge. He said Guidry and Lloyd have done nothing wrong.
Yet Collette’s response to the criminal case indicts Guidry and Lloyd. The mayor said there was never a formal quota for writing tickets on I-10, but that officers were encouraged to write two tickets per hour.
Formal or not, that’s a quota system.
Prosecutors allege that Guidry told investigators for the state Inspector General’s Office that officers received extra pay for writing tickets. They said officers were paid $12.50 per hour if they wrote less than two tickets an hour, but received $30 per hour if they wrote two tickets or more an hour.
Guidry maintained this was a ‘‘productivity’’ motivator for officers.
And productive it was.
The suit is asking for more than $2 million in refunds for drivers who were ticketed by Henderson police officers. The inspector general found about 80 percent of the town’s budget from 2009 to 2011 was covered by traffic tickets written by the police force.
Guidry and Lloyd are assured their day in court. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison.
While the justice system will ultimately decide this case, there’s an overriding lesson here: Police officers are sworn to uphold the law. That shouldn’t include breaking it to do so.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.