Zurik: State Police to reinstate LACE ticket writing program

Updated: Jan. 29, 2018 at 6:00 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Louisiana State Police will reinstitute a ticket writing program they suspended following an undercover FOX 8 investigation. The LACE program will resume next Monday with some changes that police hope will improve oversight and accountability.

Over the last two years, Trooper Daryl Thomas made more money than any other law enforcer in the state, $240,000 a year. FOX 8 found that, each week, Thomas racked up dozens of hours in overtime in many pay periods, nearly 100 hours of OT, in addition to his regular duty.

State Police will now cap overtime during any pay period at 48 hours. That's one of the many changes officials made after looking into the lucrative LACE ticket writing details.

"We're hoping the changes accomplish more accountability and more oversight and produce a better product for the public," says LSP Superintendent Kevin Reeves.

Our undercover surveillance investigation last year found the state's highest paid troopers possibly committing payroll fraud. Our cameras caught them at home during the same hours they marked as having worked on their timesheets.

Reeves says he thinks the changes will prevent something like that from happening again. "Our LACE program will be in four-hour blocks, no more than 12 hours in a day," he says, "which will allow for supervision and have a better oversight of the timeframes that are in place. You know, it won't just be unlimited LACE."

The four-hour time block change will be significant. Our investigation found, most Fridays, Trooper Byron Sims would work a 12-hour LACE shift. But after a few hours of work, we always found his car back at his West Bank house. Sims regularly ended his 12-hour LACE shift five or six hours early.

Under the new guidelines, a trooper like Sims would have to file paperwork and tickets for the last four hours of his LACE shift - which would prevent him from spending that part of his workday at his house.

"You have to turn in the company paperwork for each four-hour block," Reeves tells us. "If you're working 12 hours of LACE, you can't turn in one set of documentation for all 12 hours. You have to turn in documentation for each four hours, which will allow them more accountability."

Troopers will have to schedule their LACE shift a week in advance, and will have to start and finish their shift in the parish where they're working.

"Troopers will be required be in the parish to begin their LACE," Reeves continues. "They will go in service, headed to LACE, and then they will let the troop know when they're actually in the parish they're working, and they will stay in that parish for the entirety of the LACE, and they will travel back on their time, to their homes."

Four state troopers remain under criminal investigation following our series of stories. "[Investigators are] following up on leads and following up on investigative techniques," Reeves says.

Reeves says he expects these new LACE guidelines to improve accountability - in a program that once was ripe for abuse.

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