Gonzales Police internal memo suggests department mandating quotas
GONZALES - An alarming internal memo obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit issues a directive to officers working seatbelt patrols to issue two tickets per hour and those on DWI patrols to make one arrest per six hours worked.
The memo was sent to all officers in the department after the city realized it had received a grant from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission for seatbelt and DWI enforcement.
Defense lawyer Jarrett Ambeau said the language in the memo and the grant itself is troubling.
"Very concerning," Ambeau said. "That grant is all over the state of Louisiana. And so if the grant requires a certain number of arrests during a certain period of time, the grant is inspiring the police force to break the law, to do something against the law. That's really problematic for citizens."
Louisiana Revised Statute 40:2401.1 prohibits quotas when it comes to a predetermined number of arrests or citations by a law enforcement entity.
The grant that was awarded by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission to the City of Gonzales in part reads, "Achieve a 1:8 ratio of impaired driving arrests (an average of one impaired driving arrest per eight hours of saturation patrol worked)."
In response to questions about the quotas, Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson said his office is just following guidelines laid out in the grant. He issued the following statement:
"The City of Gonzales is one of numerous law enforcement agencies throughout the state who have contracts with the Louisiana Highway and Safety Commission. When approved for grants, each agency must adhere to the language and guidelines within that grant in order to receive funding. That is what we do. We follow what is put in place within that contract and then document how those guidelines are followed. Ensuring that our officers are informed of the proper protocol within that contract is paramount. It is my understanding that our Public Information Officer has provided you with the guidelines within that contract, and has explained that we are contractually obligated to follow those guidelines in order to attain the funding necessary to keep our streets safe. I understand how an internal memo, with neither context nor contact information provided within the grant, can seem as though we are requesting quotas, but that is not the case. We are simply following the direction of the grant as laid out directly to us. But as I said, I do understand misinterpretations. For that reason, I have advised my staff to use actual quotes from the grant, and to make notations of such when moving forward in delivering further information to our officers."
But, some defense lawyers see it in a much different way.
"This is a problem of fundamental fairness. We want to be judged on our own acts only," Ambeau said. "If a police officer has a quota or a predetermined number of arrests he has to meet, then he or she is bringing that into the interaction and it's not fair to the citizen."
The head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, Rafael Goyeneche, reviewed the memo and the grant paperwork.
"What you have now is the chief of Gonzales Police Department and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission promoting arrest quotas which is expressly prohibited by Louisiana law... This problem potentially exists in every jurisdiction receiving highway safety funding."
Lisa Freeman, head of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission told WBRZ late this afternoon, the numbers listed in the grant are not intended to serve as a quota. Freeman went on to say the numbers are an average and there have to be performance measures in place to tie it to federal funding.
"It would be a misrepresentation of the grant by saying at least one arrest must be made per eight-hour period in any memo," Freeman said.
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