Police Over-Time Incentives can lead to Bad Stops, Arrests and Testimony

One only has to look at the newspaper, Newsday, to see the enormous amount of money that a Police Officer can make from stopping and arresting people they accuse of driving while intoxicated or impaired.   The amount of money a Police officer can make in stopping, arresting, and then testifying against a person accused of drunk driving is not only mind boggling, but is highly relevant to their credibility and the guilt or non-guilt of the accused.

Why is it relevant?  Given the money involved,  Police Officers have an incentive to stop drivers late at night and early in the morning without a reason in hopes of finding that they have driven after consuming alcohol.  However, under the law, the Police must have an articulable reasonable to stop someone in their car, or evidence will be suppressed and the case dismissed.  They are not permitted under the New York State and U.S. Constitution to stop a car because they have a hunch something must be a foot or the occupants look suspicious.  In New York they need to observe a traffic infraction or violation before stopping someone in a DWI case.

Given the Constitution, Police Officers with a creative imagination may make up a reason to justify a reason to stop the person to see if they were drinking.   A frequent violation stated is a failure to maintain lane, or some other traffic violation.  At one-time police in Nassau County, the State Troopers and Suffolk County had Police cars that were equipped with video cameras in their vehicles, which were used to corroborate  the offense that led to the stop of the accused.

In the early 1990’s, various insurance companies donated cameras to the Nassau County Police Department for their units that did DWI enforcement.  The Cameras were installed on the dash board where they could be activated  to tape the alleged offense.  These cameras were also connected to a wireless mike that was worn by the Police Officer which recorded the conversation between the driver and the Police Officer.  These tapes were used to show juries how a person was driving, and show how a  the tests were given to the person on the side of road. This let jurors judge for themselves whether the person was driving as stated, or whether the person passed the tests or not. 

That allowed the jury to hear the interaction between the Police and the driver.   Soon after these cameras were installed, these cameras soon became “disabled”.  When they were working, frequently the Police failed to record the actual reason for the stop.  After the stop occurred,   the tests the police gave were given out of the view of the camera.   The cameras were later removed. Why? Because the Police officers did not in fact, like the cameras that objectively recorded all of the dialogue and actions which took place.   The fact is they did not like evidence that could show that their actions were not appropriate or their opinions where not valid. 

In one case, involving the State Troopers, one State Trooper could be seen screaming in the face of the driver while he pushed his finger into the drivers’ chest while he was standing outside of the car.   The sound of the tape however, did not come through for some unexplained reason.  The Trooper during his direct testimony by the Prosecutor stated that the suspect was being aggressive to him. However, the tape clearly showed the defendant had his hands behind his back, and made no threatening gestures, facial or otherwise, to the Trooper.  In fact, it was clear to the jury that the Trooper was bullying the defendant, and screaming in his face for no reason other than to intimidate him. A quick acquittal followed.  While videotaping the driving and stop of motor vehicles is standard procedure in many departments throughout the country; Nassau, Suffolk, and the New York State

Troopers on Long Island have discontinued its use.  Videotaping with sound is the best way to show that a crime was committed and to prosecute those that are truly guilty.  One famous video clip involving a DWI arrest is where the Police in Florida are caught on tape, in a DWI case discussing how they are going to fabricate a Police Report against a person arrested for DWI. One Officer stated that he would fill out an accident report showing that the person who was arrested for DWI caused the accident with a Police Car.  Shockingly, the fact was the Police Officer caused the accident. Their plan was uncovered after defense counsel question why the tape did not have sound on it.  Only through the efforts of the defense attorney, was it revealed that sound existed which showed that the Police were committing a felony and framing the defendant. 

Police Officers increase their chances of making overtime by making an arrest by waiting until the end of their shift to pull someone over.  One can easily tell this is the case if the Officer has been on duty for several hours and stopped few, if any, drivers during his/her shift until the end of his/her shift.  Any DWI arrest based upon the procedures will take 5 to 7 hours, for some reason, to process back at the station.

If the Police Officer’s time to process the arrest brings him beyond the end of his scheduled tour, the Police Officer is paid overtime.  This is worked Overtime.  The Police Officer can make extra Overtime that is not worked related to the arrest based upon their contract.  The nine hour rule states that a Police Officer must have 9 hours between shifts to rest. This is reasonable, however, in practice what it means is that if a police officer is working a 7pm-7am shift, and makes an arrest and  does not finish processing the arrest until 12:00 p.m. and he is scheduled to work that evening at 5:00 p.m., under their contract they cannot start until 9:00 p.m.  Although they will not start work until 9:00 p.m., they will be paid for the 4 hours from 5:00 to 9:00 as if they actually worked those hours, even though they did not.  To appear in Court to testify in the morning, they receive a minimum of 4 hours  pay even if they are only present for 10 minutes.  In those cases, they appear and if they have to testify, they can be there until 5 pm. If they have to work that night at 7:00 pm, they will not start until 2:00 am the following morning, and then will work to 7:00 am. Therefore, receiving their straight pay for 7 hours they did not work. This system allowed one of Nassau County Police Officers to make over $250,000, half of which was for Overtime.

Given the financial rewards involved in stopping and accusing those of driving while intoxicated, there is an incentive to make a stop when one should not, to give tests in such a way as to cause a person to fail, or give an opinion about subjective observations that would lead to an arrest, such as the condition of the eyes of a subject, strength of odor, balance and so on.  Common sense tells them that if they do not have an opinion that the person was intoxicated, they would never be called as witness, thereby eliminating any possibility of a substantial payday. 

The members of the Nassau County Police Department Central Testing Section where People are brought that are accused of Driving While Intoxicated are among the highest paid in the Nassau County Police Department.

Police Officers and Prosecutors frequently fight every attempt to reveal their financial interest even though it is public record and can easily be found on websites like www.seethroughny.com