CHP scandal may not be limited to L.A. area

The California Highway Patrol’s overtime scandal – in which more than 100 officers from its East Los Angeles branch may have inflated their overtime while helping Caltrans workers stay safe while doing freeway maintenance work – could explode into a statewide scandal. That’s contrary to claims made when the scandal first emerged in February, when CHP officials said a survey of other commands turned up no similar false claims.

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and a team of attorneys are representing more than 30 of the accused CHP officers. According to a Los Angeles Times report, 14 accused officers are facing termination while 90 more are still being investigated. Cooley says about 40 in total are at risk of being fired.

The main allegation facing officers: That they would seek eight hours of overtime pay after only being needed by Caltrans to work half that many hours or less on protection details.

Overtime spiking called common across state

But in court documents and in comments to the Times, Cooley says he can establish several points countering the CHP’s claims about the case. The most serious: The practice of padding such overtime is common in many of the 103 CHP commands around the state, according to former CHP officers. This would mean that Caltrans was overcharged by far more than the $360,000 that CHP has already documented.

Cooley also alleged that several middle- and upper-level CHP officials, including one who helped launch the East L.A. probe, engaged in the same questionable overtime billing practice when they were lower-ranking officers from 2007 to 2009.

The CHP is so far resisting releasing related documents requested by Cooley’s team and the media, saying the information is related to the ongoing investigation of the scandal.

But the involvement of another state agency with its own reputation to protect makes it seem unlikely that CHP can keep the lid on the scandal, as it tried to do on other internal problems earlier this century.

In February, Caltrans Director Laurie Berman announced that the agency’s inspector general would do a thorough audit of the CHP-Caltrans relationship.

“Caltrans takes violations of the law very seriously and illegal activity of any kind is not tolerated within the department,” Berman said in a statement to the Times. “If it is determined there was Caltrans employee misconduct, disciplinary action will be taken.”

Caltrans has not disclosed a timetable for when the inspector general’s audit will be released.

Scandal echoes those seen in Schwarzenegger years

The scandal marks the end to a decade of relative quiet for California’s largest law-enforcement agency. Among the allegations against the CHP during the Schwarzenegger administration:

  • In 2009, the Ventura County Star reported that there was strong evidence that CHP officials impeded a hate-crimes investigation of a local CHP officer involved in a racially charged incident after officers held a party at an Oxnard hotel.
  • In 2006, the Sacramento Bee reported that the CHP spent nearly $50 million on helicopters and motorcycles that were not open to competitive bidding. The companies given the contracts – Eurocopters and BMW, respectively – had courted top CHP officials with gifts and meals.
  • In 2004, the Bee reported on the “Chiefs’ Disease” phenomenon in which 80 percent of top CHP officials filed for medical disabilities in late career, enabling them to get much more generous pensions. Because police discipline records were then confidential, Bee reporters confirmed the scandal through worker’s compensation claims filed by the CHP executives.

A CHP attorney threatened the Bee with a lawsuit if the records were used in the Bee’s reporting, saying the records were confidential. The Bee went ahead with the story, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to eventually force out then-CHP Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick.

12 comments

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  1. Dork
    Dork 30 August, 2019, 05:52

    Bank Fraud
    Wire Fraud
    Fraud
    Money Laundering
    Embezzlement

    LOCK THEM ALL UP and throw away the Keys!!!

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Harris
      Greg Harris 30 August, 2019, 10:59

      Before the investigation is completed? Doesnt seem fair for you to assume guilt before all the facts are in.

      Reply this comment
  2. Leonard Castillo
    Leonard Castillo 30 August, 2019, 06:34

    Wow CHP think they’re untouchable and above the law sad!!

    Reply this comment
  3. John Walker
    John Walker 30 August, 2019, 10:39

    As a retired CHP officer who has worked many OT details, there is no need to cheat. These guys are well paid in the first place. The offenders have made their beds and now need to sleep in them.

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Harris
      Greg Harris 30 August, 2019, 11:01

      If they are guilty it becomes a serious character issue. A person who steals will also lie and commit other crimes. This conduct damages all officers everywhere.

      Reply this comment
  4. Queeg
    Queeg 30 August, 2019, 11:46

    Comrades

    Why fret, you’re ruled not governed.

    With 40% of LA commerce under the table why are you surprised that enforcers are dipping in the till too.

    Please. Stay out of local jails, they could, for training purposes, beat you; leave sisal ropes under your pillow…..And grisly things like that.

    And once 3-4 million gig workers are under the thumbs of publicans more dollars roll in for government workers to pluck; bags and bags of money everywhere, incredible….ahhhhh!

    Order in Gazpacho, avocado toast and chilled Rose all around!

    Perhaps. Time to reserve your personal moving trailers from Uly, I love the overtime.

    Reply this comment
  5. Jacob Williams
    Jacob Williams 30 August, 2019, 21:13

    My son had 8 years experience as a CHP Officer and he was fired for not handing in a traffic accident report that he did not write up, and a Sargent said he lied about it. He was wrongfully fired and it can be proven. Anyone out there willing to help? He had to hire an attorney for15k and had no union representation.

    Reply this comment
  6. Mike
    Mike 31 August, 2019, 08:01

    I’ve seen chp on many occasions sleeping in there car recently while working for Caltrans what makes me angry that my tax dollars pay there wages

    Reply this comment
    • Bert
      Bert 31 August, 2019, 17:10

      I call bs on this, any officer sleeping in a car needs to be fired. I doubt you have ever seen this, hard to believe. More cops are killed by cars then bullets!! You say many occasions, could they be writing reports, or taking notes, you dont know? So dont make stuff up

      Reply this comment
  7. Eugenia Garcia
    Eugenia Garcia 31 August, 2019, 12:30

    Corruption is everywhere, I don’t know why people so surprised! Don’t get me wrong, there are A lot of decent law enforcement out there.But for those use the power of the badge for their own greed & B.S., know this ” Fair exchange is NO ROBBERY!” YOU slept in your cars, while YOU were supposed to be working, YOU collected the money knowing that YOU didn’t work ALL the OVERTIME hours that YOU claim. And now that YOUR covers are pulled , WHY ARE YOU SNIVELING ABOUT IT? It’s YOUR actions that brought YOU to this point, And it’s YOUR DISHONESTY that makes people lose faith in our legal system! YOUR NO different then ANY of US, REGARDLESS of a BADGE! SO , now that YOU got caught, DEAL with it!!

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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