California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers receive their pay from the public, though indirectly. Known as the Motor Vehicle Fund, the revenue from this mostly comes from vehicle registration fees from the DMV, which are then allocated by state representatives in Sacramento who decide what the budget for the department will be. Some officers have been taking advantage of those funds, though, as the L.A. Times reports that over 50 CHP officers have been charged in connection with an overtime pay scheme.
The officers were all out of the CHP’s East L.A. station. An investigation into the station began in 2019 and found that even some supervisors knew what was going on. The main grift was officers lying about the amount of time they were on protection detail for Caltrans. Per The Times:
The charges come three years after the CHP relieved of duty dozens of officers working in the East L.A. station after investigators gathered evidence that they exaggerated the number of hours they worked on protection details for Caltrans workers doing freeway repairs. So many officers were removed that the agency had to restaff much of the station.
Between 2016 and 2018, officers essentially lied about the amount of time they were actually working protection detail for the Caltrans cleanup crews. Protection detail for Caltrans just involves an officer sitting in a cruiser and slowly following the Caltrans crews while they work. According to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, an officer may have only been on the detail for two to three hours, but these officers would say they were on for eight or more.
Officers also padded overtime hours by lying about carpool lane patrols, even going so far as to make up reports:
In addition to the main scheme alleged, three of the former officers also are accused of recording fake hours for patrolling carpool lanes. According to Bonta’s allegations, the officers made up fake warnings and reports of assistance to drivers to support their fraudulent overtime claims.
In total, 54 officers have been charged with 302 counts ranging from grand theft to presentation of fraudulent claims. The 54 officers were paid a total of $226,556 in overtime pay. Of the 54 officers charged, 11 are somehow still employed by the agency but are on administrative leave. While none of this is surprising at this point, Attorney General Bonta said these officers threw public trust out the window.
Trust is a critical part of successful law enforcement. These defendants disregarded the law through their alleged actions and did so without thought of how their conduct would impact the California Highway Patrol or the community that trusted them to protect and serve.
We can't blame anyone for losing faith in the force after this.