A New Orleans police officer has been arrested for writing more than 200 phantom seat belt citations. Why would he do that?
Glenn Gross, who works in the NOPD’s information technology department, was writing bogus tickets for seat-belt violations, allowing him to collect extra pay, Superintendent Ronal Serpas said.
The department received a federal grant in June that pays for overtime for officers who enforce seat-belt laws. Rather than doing the work and writing up motorists who had violated the law, Gross, 44, wrote tickets to phantom motorists, officials said.
Officials said the investigation is continuing and that other officers, and possibly a supervisor, are also under scrutiny. Serpas said he couldn’t say how much overtime Gross collected as a result of the scam.
You know, libertarians are often mocked when we decry mandatory seat belt laws, or when we get all hot and bothered about federal meddling in trifles like this.
Even if you don’t much care about personal freedom, here’s why this stuff matters: Put aside this particular cop and his made-up violations. Put aside the others who may also be implicated in the investigation. Put aside also the (legitimate) concerns about how such incentives might encourage bad cops to fine actual motorists who are wearing seat belts, or about how primary seat belts laws give police another reason to make pretext stops that can then lead to dubious searches and harassment.
Even assuming that everybody’s motives are on the up and up, here, you still have a city with a murder rate that’s ten times the national average. And here you have a federal program that hands out bonus checks not to cops who spend their time walking beats in dangerous neighborhoods, who patrol high-crime areas, or who put in overtime to solve murders . . . but to cops who hunt down motorists who aren’t wearing their seat belts.