The town of Henderson’s former assistant police chief pleaded guilty Monday in an investigation of illegal bonuses paid to officers for handing out traffic tickets along Interstate 10, a violation of a state law against incentives for meeting ticket quotas.
The plea deal also came with a written pledge from longtime Henderson Police Chief Leroy Guidry that his officers will no longer target the I-10 corridor for traffic citations, particularly the area just west of the Atchafalaya Basin bridge — a spot where Henderson patrol units have been a common sight nabbing drivers for violating the 60-mph speed limit on the bridge as they enter a 70-mph zone approaching the Henderson exit off I-10.
“I wanted a commitment that there would be no concentration of traffic enforcement at the Basin bridge,” St. Martin Parish prosecutor Chester Cedars said.
Oliver Mack Lloyd, who has since resigned his position as assistant chief, and Guidry were charged in 2013 with public payroll fraud, maintaining false public records and malfeasance in office in the illegal quota system.
Lloyd pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of false accounting and was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $500.
The charges against Guidry, who denied knowledge of the scheme, likely will be dismissed, Cedars said, but the District Attorney’s Office will monitor the Henderson Police Department to ensure officers do not continue focusing traffic enforcement along I-10.
“We are going to end that practice,” he said.
The criminal charges grew from a state Office of Inspector General investigation into the quota system, prompted by a complaint about the practice by a former Henderson officer.
The inspector general’s report notes that Henderson benefited to the tune of about $2.4 million between 2009 and 2011 in fines and forfeitures, mostly from traffic stops.
That figure represented about 80 percent of the town’s annual revenue for that period, according to the report.
Louisiana law forbids formal or informal quota systems under which officers receive compensation based on how many citations they issue.
Officers received from $10 to $15 per ticket, according to court documents filed with Lloyd’s guilty plea.
Henderson officers were not directly paid per ticket but rather the payment was reflected in enhanced hourly wages, with officers expected to issue at least two tickets per hour in order to get the enhanced hourly wage, according to an affidavit filed to support the criminal charges.
Officers could make even more money if they issued more than two tickets an hour but would be paid only $12.50 an hour if they issued fewer than two tickets per hour, according to the allegations in the affidavit.
“The ends don’t justify the means, and I believe this underscores that,” Cedars said.
Guidry, who has served as police chief since 2003, wrote in court filings that he had no knowledge of the quota scheme but admitted “an error in judgment” in relying on Lloyd.
The money for the extra traffic tickets came from a Louisiana Highway Safety Commission grant, and the town wrote a $16,000 check Monday to reimburse the commission.
Henderson Mayor Sherbin Collette could not be reached for comment late Monday.