Archive for Sunday, March 4, 2012

City officials looking for flaws in police ticketing policies, system

March 4, 2012


KU Ticket Investigation

Four former Kansas Athletics employees and one current employee have been federally charged and two former employees have pleaded guilty in a scandal involving millions of dollars of stolen tickets from the university.

How police ticketing works, past and present

The Lawrence Police Department in April 2006 went from a system that relied totally on paper to one backed up by software, known as “e-citations.” Paper tickets are still a part of the system.

• Now, when an officer issues a ticket for a traffic or other Municipal Court offense, the e-citation is printed on thermal paper, and two copies are generated. One goes to the driver or suspect, and the second is signed by the driver and kept by the officer.

• An officer turns in the paper ticket for a supervisor to review, and it is later transferred to the front office and Municipal Court. Before the city began using e-citations in 2006, the system relied on the transfer of the paper copies — through internal mail and document collection — to Municipal Court.

• Since April 2006, a different system has been in place. At the same time the tickets are printed, software in a police car computer generates a text file that contains all of the information related to the stop. Officers can add notes after a driver or suspect has left an area. It allows the officer to safely enter the notes without any immediate safety concerns. But this also could be a potential weak point.

“Used correctly, this gives the officer the ability to void an e-ticket, for example, for a person that runs out to move a parked car that a ticket had just been issued for — and the officer decides to take the ticket back,” said Police Chief Tarik Khatib. “But, taken advantage of, this can also be used to void a ticket for a friend. So the key as we examine what to do next is to somehow retain some flexibility and discretion for those doing the right thing, and at the same time look into increasing oversight.”

• At the end of the shift, officers log in to a report transfer program, and all citations on the computer are automatically sent to a network drive. At this point officers have no way to stop the citation from being transferred. They end up in a database file that is generated to be transferred into the Municipal Court records system every few days or less.

How six speeding tickets were fixed in the recent scandal (under both the old and new systems)

Khatib said an internal investigation revealed one of three methods was used to dismiss the six speeding tickets from 2000 to 2009 for an officer’s friend:

• The officer who issued the citation was asked by another officer as a favor to write “void” across the front of the copy that goes to Municipal Court.

“It’s like it never happened. It’s an extension of me pulling you over and giving you a break,” Khatib said.

• The ticket was already turned in but again as a favor from another officer the issuing officer or another officer asked a prosecutor to dismiss the ticket, for example by saying it included an error.

• During a vehicle stop — before a ticket was written — the issuing officer was called by another officer and asked to not write a ticket.

A review of city policies is planned following a recent scandal in which a former Kansas University athletics official provided men’s basketball tickets to at least one police officer and also benefitted from the dismissal of speeding tickets.

But Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib said in an interview last week that his department became less vulnerable to ticket-fixing problems in 2006 with the introduction of electronic ticketing.

Regardless, Khatib said city officials would thoroughly examine the system.

Last month, one police officer was suspended and then resigned after it became public that six speeding tickets were dismissed during a nine-year period in exchange for KU basketball tickets. Another officer also has been suspended.

The officer who resigned was a longtime friend of the former KU athletics official. City officials have said the athletics official provided basketball tickets to the officer, who either had dismissed or asked fellow officers to dismiss six speeding tickets that the athletics official had amassed.

“It’s a reasonable system we have in place,” Khatib said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to review the whole thing from top to bottom and set up an environment that has less opportunity to do that.”

City Manager David Corliss said he has ordered a full review in coming months of the city’s policy for tracking dismissed tickets. It will cover the police department as well as Municipal Court and other city departments.

“I just want to look and see what other communities are doing and see if we can’t improve not only the actual practice but also the transparency,” Corliss said.

Ticket scandal

Of the six speeding tickets that were dismissed as part of the recent scandal, four were issued between 2000 to 2005 under the old system. The last two were issued in 2008 and 2009.

The department went to e-citations in 2006 because it was accepted as a best practice in the industry, Khatib has said. Khatib was a longtime supervisor in the department before he was elevated to interim chief in 2010, taking over for retiring Police Chief Ron Olin. Khatib was selected as permanent chief in February 2011.

The newer system makes it more difficult to fix a ticket, Khatib said, but it can still happen.

“The electronic ticketing system made it easier because you have checks and balances,” he said. “You get a paper copy that goes into the system, and you have an electronic copy that goes in. That’s a pretty good system, but people can still make the choice to bypass the system.”

He said the city’s review would try to find fixes for any possible weak points in the system.

Last May, following an anonymous complaint, an internal investigation was launched, followed by a federal investigation into allegations speeding tickets were dismissed.

The city has said the individual whose speeding tickets were dismissed was a former Kansas Athletics Inc. employee now serving time in federal prison for his role in the broader KU ticket scandal.

A federal judge last year sentenced four former Kansas Athletics Inc. employees — Ben Kirtland, Rodney Jones, Charlette Blubaugh and Kassie Liebsch — and one department consultant, Tom Blubaugh, to federal prison. They were involved in scam that involved cash for athletics tickets that operated from 2005 to 2010 and cost KU more than $2 million in football and basketball tickets.

City officials have said one police officer had a friendship dating to the late 1990s or early 2000s with the former athletics official who had access to basketball tickets. The officer received free, discounted or special access to athletic events over several years. The athletics official did ask for help with various speeding tickets.

The officer who resigned asked the officer who remains on suspension two or three times for help in fixing a ticket. The officer who helped “may have been the beneficiary of KU tickets through the first employee,” according to a Feb. 24 statement Khatib provided about the investigation. The other speeding tickets were fixed by asking officers who issued or were about to issue a ticket to void it or not issue it, but those officers did not knowingly receive anything in return, Khatib said.

At the city’s request, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigated the case and decided against filing federal charges of bribery or other offenses, but Khatib said the conduct violated the city’s gratuity and solicitation policies.

City officials have not identified the two officers, but City Attorney Toni Wheeler has confirmed that a personnel investigation was complete regarding Sgt. Matt Sarna, who resigned from the department Feb. 24. The internal investigation regarding the second suspended officer is ongoing.

The city has provided the officers’ names to District Attorney Charles Branson so prosecutors can determine what, if any, effect the situation would have on criminal cases in which the officers served as witnesses. Prosecutors would be required to notify defense attorneys in pertinent cases about any potential exculpatory evidence.

Branson said last week prosecutors were still reviewing their files.

“I do not have a timeline for when the review will end,” Branson said.

City review, ethics policies

Khatib said the ticket scandal has affected the entire police department.

“That was bad news for the community, but that person was dealt with,” Khatib said. “I think you have to look at not necessarily what happened but how we’re handling it.”

He said that during his 18 months as interim and permanent chief, he has stressed to employees what the public’s expectations of them are.

“I want to reinforce that officers are out there doing their jobs, and I don’t want people to put this on them. They’re the officers that are out there doing this every day. People that are culpable in this are going to be held accountable, and if anybody deserves any negativity, that is me, the chief of police,” Khatib said. “I should be the one that takes the blame for that, not the officers who are out there every day doing their job.”


Gandalf 6 years ago

I'll beleive the problem has been fixed the first time I see an LPD officer getting a ticket leaving the cadillac ranch at 2 AM.

doc1 6 years ago

And that would be breaking what law exactly?

Crazy_Larry 6 years ago

Don't cha know? Anyone who doesn't lick the boot of law enforcement is labeled as "hater". It doesn't matter what the situation. See a cop commit a crime and turn it in? Hater. You discuss factual information whereby the po-po have lied under oath or set up a citizen? Hater. Call bribery, bribery? Hater. Just lick the boot of our "heroes", never discuss the systemic corruption, and you'll be fine. Hater.

pace 6 years ago

If law enforcement, fireman, priest or your grandma leaves a bar and drives drunk, they should be stopped. You can go fly a kite with the idea that it is hate to give the special ones a ticket. Drunks kill, they don't kill just other drunks, they kill anyone. So you can stick your special privilege free pass where the sun don't shine. If it is hate to want the "special" people busted for drunk driving, I am full of hate. You say get a life, well too bad. I say see a drunk drive, bust him and I don't care if it is a cop. Boo hoo if he loses his job, You allegiance for bad cops forwards corruption and denigrates the policemen who don't drink and drive.

John Hamm 6 years ago

How about fixing the "officer discretion" option? Some illegally parked vehicles get ticketed while others don't. Ask, "Why not?" Response, "Officer's discretion." If it's illegally parked it should be ticketed.

deec 6 years ago

Officer discretion was practiced when the Occupy movement participants were ticketed, but the other people standing around in the park observing them were not. The only people who were ticketed were the ones who were using their free speech and assembly rights.

rgh 6 years ago

I bet they don't worry about this happening in Columbia, MO or Manhattan. It is sad that public officials cannot be trusted to uphold the law they are sworn.

Al Deathe 6 years ago

Do you really want a black and white system? Do you really want a system that has to issue a ticket to everybody they stop? Officers use "officer discretion" to give people the benefit of the doubt. Writing a ticket is not going to slow people down, bad drivers are bad drivers. If you look at the number of times officer discretion is used correctly to incorrectly I think you would be surprised. Those who are given a warning hopefully will think about their driving and pay more attention those who don't will be in the same situation soon after. I have to ask how OonlyBonly has time to watch the meter maids issue tickets enough to know how many vehicles they ticket and which one they don't or is his statement just a outlandish statement without merit just inflammatory. Law Enforcement is just like any occupation, unfortunately a few will really embarrass the occupation but in the end the occupation as a whole strives to do its job in a very honorable way, 5 percent of an occupation can cause great embarrassment for the other 95 percent. I don't know of any occupation that doesn't have the same problem. The important thing is to find those 5 percent and rid them from their occupation.

progressive_thinker 6 years ago

I have to agree with you. Having worked within similar agencies, I can assure you that they all have 1 percent of their employees that will get into trouble. So long as the department aggressively pursues the offenders, and it looks like they did in this case, they are doing the right thing. Providing timely, accurate information to the public helps as well.

From my perspective, LPD does a great job.

JackMcKee 6 years ago

flaw: too few basketball tickets coming in to satisfy demand. Solution: pull over more cars with KU license plates/bumper stickers.

racerx 6 years ago

The Chief said: "I want to reinforce that officers are out there doing their jobs, and I don’t want people to put this on them."

Well, Chief, you're the one that's putting the whole department in a negative light. By not releasing names and protecting the officers who acted unethically, you taint the reputation of all officers in the department and put them all under public suspicion.

patkindle 6 years ago

what is really stupid is why get a ticket fixed when it is so much easier to pay extra and get it written down?? the ku guy had plenty of money it really doesnt make sense

Crazy_Larry 6 years ago

So, the cop's are now looking at bribery, tampering with a public record (ticket fixing), and receiving stolen property? Oh, no biggie. He's resigned and will go to work in KCK, Topeka, or Ottawa. Just pass the criminal element on to the next town full of unsuspecting sheep.

JackMcKee 6 years ago

another flaw : too many people are eluding police before their tickets can be confiscated. Solution: high speed driving training

JackMcKee 6 years ago

flaw: tickets not as good as they once were. solution: pull over nicer cars

classclown 6 years ago

deec (anonymous) replies…

Officer discretion was practiced when the Occupy movement participants were ticketed, but the other people standing around in the park observing them were not. The only people who were ticketed were the ones who were using their free speech and assembly rights.



They were ticketed for violating an ordinance that states they can not be in the park during certain hours. There is no such ordinance concerning public sidewalks.

deec 6 years ago

Actually there were observers standing in the park itself who were ignored. The park hours are posted nowhere except inside the bathrooms. The only people ticketed were people exercising their first amendment rights, a "crime" for which there is NO penalty mentioned in the city code.

Patricia Davis 6 years ago

I agree. The culture still exists because it is widely believed they have done nothing wrong.This in-house audit is a joke. The current system shows it can still have manual override. The only difference is a few more hoops.

Hoots 6 years ago

This has gone on for years. I was told Terry Allen abused the snot out of this little agreement while he was here. Why is everyone so surprised?...Really? The City has always fixed things for special people at KU.

equalaccessprivacy 6 years ago

BBC Comedy Spot on Privatization of the Police Force:

Douglas County needs a citizen review board: I've never by at least a factor of ten seen such mouth-dropping lack of ethics, brazen dishonesty, and conflict-of-interest--not to mention horrifying incompetence --and I've seen my share.

James Minor 6 years ago

Lawrence has a citizen review board. The board consists of upstanding citizens. Only a few of them who have the deciding vote have courtside BBALL seats and access to the executive rest rooms.

pace 6 years ago

If fixing tickets for game tickets isn't illegal, it should be. If fixing tickets or dropping charges for gratuity is not illegal in Lawrence and Douglas County, it should be. If it isn't illegal this is on the City commission. They should stand up. Not doing their job.

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