Ticket quotas, Rose Bowl duty let CHP officers claim full shifts for few hours work
Write 25 traffic tickets as a California Highway Patrol Officer, and you could head home and get paid for a full shift regardless of how long it took.
Make two arrests for driving under the influence as part of a DUI overtime enforcement program? You are good to go home with full pay for the assignment.
Work the Christmas or July 4th parades? You get paid for the full shift even if the parades last only a few hours.
These are some of the previously unknown perks that have been available for CHP officers around the state, according to lawyers involved in an overtime scandal that led to charges last February against 54 current and former CHP officers by state Attorney General Rob Bonta.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dismissed charges against 48 of the officers on Thursday as part of a deal that allowed them to pay restitution and have the charges dropped without admitting guilt. Four others agreed to the deal, but the charges against them had not yet been dropped as of Thursday, and two are proceeding to trial, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
The scandal stems from claims that CHP and Caltrans allowed officers working at road construction or maintenance sites to be paid for their full shifts even if they left their assignments early and remained on call if needed.
But the practice went beyond claiming extra hours for roadside work details, and was an accepted part of the CHP culture in the station and elsewhere, according to court documents prepared on behalf of some of the accused officers.
“The practice begins in the academy when cadets are told to leave early and study at home yet are encouraged to report full hours,” according to one document prepared by defense lawyers that outlines a 2012 “Standard Operation Procedure” document posted in the East Los Angeles station until 2019. “It continues during training days where officers are encouraged to report full hours yet let go early.”
The SOP “was openly posted on the overtime board in the hallway outside the break room and the sergeants’ office,” the defense document says. “The SOP was readily visible for any command staff to see.
“The procedures of reporting overtime were agency-wide, decades-old past practices.”
The CHP responded to a request for comment late Thursday with an email saying it was working on a response to questions from The Bee and would “be in touch soon.”
California accused dozens of CHP officers of overtime fraud. Their defense: Everyone does it
But documents prepared for the defense of one of the officers charged in Bonta’s case outline common practices in which officers are encouraged to file for eight hours of work even if they do not work a full shift.
Among the examples, according to the defense document:
“Monthly Training – A 6.5-hour shift (0700-1330) is considered a full 8-hour shift. The officer is told to go home and study material.”
“Rose Bowl Nightside Details – Officers are released by 6:00 AM but get paid until 10:00 AM.”
“Street Racing Course – The officer attends a four-hour course but is directed to claim full 8 hours.”
“Parades and Festivals – Officers are given full shift pay even though the event rarely goes 8 hours. Examples included: Mexican Independence Day Parade, Christmas Parade, Dia De Los Muertos Parade, Disabilities March, Cinco De Mayo Parade, Passion of Christ March, El Monte Health and Safety Fair, El Monte’s 4th of July Parade.”
The defense document says the practice was done “in accordance with past practice not only in East L.A. but throughout the state,” and maintains that Bonta’s prosecution, which the AG’s office says involved $226,556 in fraudulent overtime claims, was “not the product of a good-faith investigation.”
“Instead, this case represents the criminalization of existing CHP overtime practices which CHP was aware of for decades,” the document says.