Since New Llano Town Council decided on Tuesday to cut 10 emergency personnel positions due to recent alleged budget issues, many of the former police officers have come forward to shed light on issues surrounding citation quotas.
Louisiana law states that it is illegal for a municipality or police department to formally or informally require officers to issue a certain number of any type of traffic citations within a specific period of time.
Regardless of this law, most of the former New Llano Police and Reserve Officers as well as Police Chief Danny Hunt have spoken out about the fact that Mayor Freddie Boswell expected them to dole out five to six traffic citations per shift per officer.
Two audio files have been released to the Leesville Daily Leader since the Tuesday meeting, documenting conversations including Hunt with Boswell and Town Clerk Donna Condon.
In the recordings, it is mentioned numerous times that officers were expected to operate under a quota.
According to Hunt, in order “to make budget we had to average five tickets per shift to keep everything going smoothly.” This directive came from Boswell as indicated in an audio recording made prior to the special council meeting on Tuesday.
Boswell tells Hunt, “You got one man from the 15th of December that has not written one ticket.” Hunt replied, “We’ve been so busy lately… we’ve been working cases.”
“Why? Why are you working these cases? You’re not qualified to work them,” Boswell said. “When you get a call like on that suicide, go answer it. Go sit there, call the sheriff’s department, then get out of there and go. If he don’t take it you let me know. He has to do it.”
In the recording, Condon said to Hunt, “By law you don’t have to make your budget but in a small town, if you want to have paid police officers, you have to.”
In order to remedy budget issues, Boswell suggests that Hunt recommend Officer Kelly Anderson be let go first due to lack of citations, and Alex Vasquez should go next for the same reason.
“The Bottom line is the guys can’t not write tickets and expect to keep everybody,” Condon said. “It’s not the dispatchers’ fault. They have no control over whether or not the money comes in. But the officers do. And I don’t know why all of the sudden they think they don’t have to write tickets to maintain.
“Them guys not writing their tickets is going to cause people to go home.
“When we first sat down with the budget… we decided we could have six full-time officers. Each person would have to write five tickets a shift in order to keep them. They haven’t written five tickets a shift since we had them. They’re not even writing one a shift.”
In an interview with the Leesville Daily Leader, Hunt said, “I tell my officers the same thing all the time – go out there and do your job."
He thinks the reason 90 percent of the police department, all dispatch personnel, and two firemen were let go is because of “a conglomerations of a lot of things. A lot of bills came due and they (Boswell and Condon) could use that as recourse to lay people off because we weren’t fulfilling their version of the budget. Our people were staying busy, enforcing the law, but we weren’t going to fabricate crimes.”
Police officers have many tasks to fulfill while on the job, beyond writing traffic citations. “We have a broad band of responsibility,” Hunt said. “The key is to keep the general public safe, and yes, traffic is part of it, but not all. We patrol neighborhoods, businesses - whether open or closed – and we perform investigations. It’s a lot of obligations.
“We can’t just sit by the road and concentrate on traffic and ignore the rest of our responsibilities.”
One member of the police department who fears retaliation for speaking out chose to remain unnamed. This person said, “I was told by Donna (Condon) if I wanted to work in New Llano I had to write five tickets per shift. It shocked me because I know it’s illegal for us to have a quota.”
In response to the working conditions in the New Llano Police Department and the town in general, former Police Officer Denis Jordan has registered to run against Boswell in the upcoming mayoral election in March.
This will be his first time running for public office – he had not considered it until this week when the New Llano’s first response team was virtually dissolved.
“The people of the town deserve transparency to see what’s going on with the town’s money,” Jordan said. “It’s the people’s money. They pay the taxes, live there, and work in the community – they should have a say in what’s going on with their money.”
Jordan believes that emergency services such as the fire, police, and street repair need to be made a priority. “Council is there to represent the people from the town, but I don’t think lately the town has been acting in the people’s best interest,” he said.
Jordan is the only competition running against Boswell.
“It’s a free country,” Hunt said. “If Denis feels he can do a better job then he’s got the option to do so.”
After several attempts to reach Boswell at Town Hall and his home, he was not available for comment.
New Llano Town Council will hold another special meeting at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Councilwoman Charlotte Cooper will introduce an ordinance relative to the termination of municipal utilities on accounts which are delinquent; adding provisions for temporary service rates; establishing a meter deposit fee; requirements for new construction within the corporate limits; and rates for water and sewage disposal services.
A public hearing and the ensuing Council vote upon this ordinance will take place at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 23.