Four veteran Houston police officers who collected nearly $1 million in overtime pay combined since 2008 were recently suspended for listing one another as witnesses on traffic tickets to help themselves get overtime for testifying in court, according to records obtained Wednesday.My question, unanswered in the story: Were they required to pay back the unearned overtime? If not, why not? Given how much money they took in through this scheme, these unpaid vacations amount to a slap on the wrist, at best.
From 2008 to the present, the four officers who specialize in writing tickets together were paid $943,000 in overtime, city payroll records show.
The punishments handed down Sept. 4 by Police Chief Charles McClelland range from 20 to 45 days off without pay, concluding a lengthy investigation by HPD internal affairs triggered by tickets issued in April 2011.
Further, according to the Chronicle, "In one stop, an officer drove himself to the city jail where a suspect had already been taken, but listed himself as a witness to one traffic violation he did not observe, his disciplinary record noted." So where are the criminal charges for falsifying a government document, or perhaps even fraud?
A Chronicle commenter pointed out that, "Anybody else steals even one tenth that amount of money gets a lengthy jail sentence and is labeled a thief and felon for life." Another argued that, "If this happened in the private sector these guys would've been canned, had to repay the money, and possibly face fraud charges." Those seem like fair criticisms to me.