ZURIK: NOPD officer claimed to work months straight with no days off

Updated: Mar. 2, 2022 at 10:05 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - From September 26, 2018, to December 2, 2019, New Orleans Police Sergeant Rene Benjamin’s timesheets show he never took a day off. The next year, Benjamin claimed on his timesheets to have worked 360 days, only taking five days off the entire year.

NOPD watchdog Skip Gallagher likes to dig through timesheets and payroll records. He calls Benjamin’s alleged schedule “implausible.”

FOX 8 reviewed Benjamin’s detail and duty shifts and found he regularly claimed to work 16 hours per day. For half of the month of December 2018, Benjamin clocked in at 6 a.m. and clocked out at 10:30 p.m.

“I think if you show anybody this, and you look at it on a spreadsheet, what you see is from 6:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night every single day, for months, years. It just doesn’t make sense. At some point, you’ve got to come back and decompress,” said Gallagher.

Benjamin is one of five NOPD officers who recently received a target letter from the FBI. Tulane law professor Joel Friedman says that’s a sign something might not add up in Benjamin’s timesheets.

“Now when we add to the calculation, that the federal government has made him a target of a criminal investigation, that suggests that there’s something going on, which may suggest that perhaps he has put in requests for credit for detailed work that he actually didn’t do... which would explain why he doesn’t actually take any days off,” said Friedman.

Benjamin also runs and works at the Lakeview Security District, and helps staff off-duty details at Columbia Parc. FOX 8 found instances in Benjamin’s timesheets where those shifts overlapped. For example, on October 1, 2018, he worked NOPD duty and detail at the same time for about two hours. FOX 8 also found many instances where Benjamin’s duty and detail shifts backed up against each other, leaving no room for travel.

“NOPD does not permit that,” said Gallagher. “Your travel time is not time where you’re either on duty or on detail. And in many cases, he has duty and detail backed right up against each other. So amazingly, he was in Lakeview, and then instantaneously in Columbia Parc.”

NOPD records also show Benjamin approved timesheets for his son, who is also an NOPD officer, which is against NOPD policy.

“This is unacceptable,” said Friedman. “NOPD policy is very clear … you cannot supervise a family member. This is a father, who’s a sergeant, supervising a son in the same police house. It’s absolutely against the policy. Why did they let this happen?”

ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS

Several NOPD officers receive federal target letters

NOPD Sergeant caught on video at home while assigned detail

NOPD Sergeant appears to be behind the wheel of racecar, instead of patrol car

Police officers claiming to work two jobs at the same time

In 2020, Benjamin made nearly $200,000. If he did work every hour on his timesheet, Friedman says that’s alarming as well.

“Well, it’s troublingly for any police officer whose job requires a level of attention and care and an active mental state to be working long hours... 360, or in one case, 365 days a year, allegedly with no breaks. There’s no policy against that, but it doesn’t seem logical that anybody would work a full year and not have one day off. Because it’s a stressful, time-consuming job. They put in long hours. And it suggests that there’s something else perhaps going on because it’s not realistic to think that a police officer is working a full year without one day off,” said Friedman.

Gallagher says after studying timesheets for months, he believes some of the timesheets might be fictional. He says he’s happy the FBI is paying close attention to the details.

“In the big picture, you can’t have multiple 15, 16-hour days, and expect somebody to be at work and on a detail for all of that time and be awake and alert. It just doesn’t happen,” said Gallagher.

FOX 8 reached out to Benjamin through his attorney but hasn’t received any comment.

The NOPD also had no comment for this story, but when we asked about the target letter, the department said, “from the beginning, we have said this behavior won’t be tolerated. As with everything we face, it can be a learning experience. We have implemented measures that will significantly reduce the possibility that an NOPD shift will overlap with an OPSE detail. For instance, NOPD shift schedules are now fed into the OPSE system. If a requested detail shift overlaps with a scheduled NOPD shift, the system will reject it. NOPD has worked closely with the Office of the Independent Police Monitor and the federal consent decree monitors to design safeguards that will help the system operate more efficiently.”

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