Police Officers Suspended; Accused Of Being Paid While Home
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Two Louisiana police officers have been suspended and demoted, accused of taking pay for hours when they were home and not working, a newspaper's public records request has revealed.
Baton Rouge Police disciplinary letters show that Patrick Martinez Jr. was suspended for 90 days and Jaime Strahan for 80, and each was demoted from sergeant to officer, The Advocate reported.
The letters, dated Dec. 20 and signed by Jonny Dunnam, then interim police chief, state that each was paid for many hours when GPS readings showed their squad cars at their homes in other parishes.
The newspaper said Strahan's letter quoted her as telling internal investigators that she sometimes left work early and "took it to the house."
Uniformed patrol officers, such as Martinez and Strahan, cannot work from home; all their duties are on patrol in the field, Sgt. L'Jean McKneely, a police spokesman, told the newspaper.
"You were only at work 46.5 of the 80 hours you claimed on the duty roster" during two weeks in August, her letter stated.
The letter to Martinez said he worked only 11 of 30 hours logged in the three days starting Aug. 23. He was assigned from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., but his patrol vehicle was at his home in Prairieville from 6:53 a.m. until 4 p.m., on Aug. 25, the letter said.
Martinez told investigators he sometimes drove his personal vehicle to work or left work to get his personal vehicle, according to his letter. Martinez did admit "leaving work on numerous occasions to perform personal errands, without requesting leave to do so," it said.
Investigators also checked data from the key fobs the officers use to check in at department buildings.
Each officer signed a disciplinary letter and later filed an appeal denying the allegations. Both appeals have been withdrawn, said Penny Stobaugh, secretary for the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board.
The newspaper said it could not reach either officer, and attorney Chris Sonnier, who filed both appeals, did not return calls and emails Wednesday.
Sonnier did not immediately return a call and email from The Associated Press on Thursday. Directory assistance did not have a listing for either officer.
Dunnam disciplined Martinez and Strahan for violating department policies about shirking duties, conduct unbecoming an officer, carrying out orders and falsification of documents. Martinez was also disciplined for violating a policy on truthfulness.
Both officers' demotions were effective Dec. 23, the letters state. Both began unpaid suspensions Jan. 6; Strahan's ends March 25 and Martinez's April 5.
A third fraud investigation is still underway because the officer, Larry Ned, has been on medical leave, McKneely said.