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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Editorial: Cop Betrayed Public Trust

Faux traffic tickets written by New Orleans police officer were real corruption: An editorial
EDITORIAL - The Times-Picayune - November 9, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Glenn Gross betrayed the public trust and ripped off taxpayers as a New Orleans police officer when he wrote hundreds of phony tickets while working federally financed overtime shifts. The grant, which the New Orleans Police Department received in June, was meant to help enforce seatbelt laws. But investigators haven't been able to find a single legitimate ticket in the 215 that the 22-year veteran wrote over several months. While it isn't clear how much overtime money Mr. Gross pocketed, because of his scheme at least some grant money intended to promote public safety instead enriched a corrupt cop. Such dishonesty is repugnant, and it's a relief that Mr. Gross won't be writing any more tickets, real or fake. As part of a deal with the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office, he left the force and pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of malfeasance. Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Camille Buras also sentenced him to five years probation -- something that the DA's office said was not part of the deal they made with him. But it's fitting that Mr. Gross faced stiffer consequences than just losing his job. He abused the public trust by lying and taking overtime pay he did not earn. When he was initially arrested, he was booked with 215 counts of injuring public records and a single count of malfeasance in office. The NOPD isn't alone in having problems with officers misusing federal grant money. William S. Marciante Jr., a St. Charles Parish Sheriff's deputy, was arrested last week after an investigation alleged that he had been filing false seat belt citations to motorists he had never stopped and claiming overtime pay. In that case, the deputy is accused of citing real motorists -- which is even more damaging to public trust since it subjected citizens to false accusations. In August, Carol Ney, a former Harahan police officer, was sentenced in federal court to two years probation and ordered to pay restitution for padding her time sheets to take advantage of a federal policing grant. The fact that police agencies in three different jurisdictions experienced problems with federal overtime grants is worrisome and points to the need for careful oversight of such programs. In the case of Mr. Gross and the New Orleans Police Department, there's an even more troubling pattern -- he joins a long list of New Orleans Police officers who are no longer on the force because they have been accused of breaking rules or the law. In the past 18 months, nearly 50 officers have been fired or have resigned or retired while under investigation. Those include high-profile cases, like the officers involved in the shooting of innocent civilians on the Danziger Bridge and the subsequent cover-up, and more prosaic wrongdoing, like Mr. Gross' phony ticket scam. All instances of police wrongdoing and corruption -- large and small -- damage public confidence in law enforcement and by extension, hurt efforts to make the community safer. It's a sign of progress that Mr. Gross was discovered quickly by an alert supervisor who saw a curious pattern and, as Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas put it, "did not turn his head'' but instead notified the Public Integrity Bureau. The NOPD needs to continue to root out the bad apples, and that requires continued vigilance.

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