LOS ANGELES (CN) – The California Highway Patrol, which oversees law enforcement on the state’s highways, said Friday that it has temporarily relieved dozens of officers of duty while the agency investigates reports of faked overtime.
The CHP confirmed it is investigating whether officers based out of the East Los Angeles station fraudulently reported hundreds of hours of overtime while providing safety to highway maintenance workers – an assignment that typically requires sitting in a police cruiser near a construction zone.
Southern Division Chief Mark Garrett, who assumed the position on the day the scandal broke, said the “misconduct was discovered during an internal examination of overtime processes in March 2018.” It was not clear if Garrett’s promotion Friday was coincidental.
“I am extremely disheartened by the actions of these employees. The CHP takes any misconduct by its employees seriously and does not tolerate any behavior that violates the law or department policy,” Garrett said in a statement. “The discovery of the misconduct came as the result of anomalies uncovered during an internal examination. Action was taken to identify and remove those employees who betrayed the trust of the public and brought shame upon the department.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is tasked with determining whether criminal charges will be brought in the case. Garrett said the CHP is “in communication” with the DA’s office regarding the case.
CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said in a statement he was “frankly angered and appalled by the actions of those involved.” He said the agency has examined data from the 103 field offices across the state and found no evidence of misconduct outside the East LA office.
Highway maintenance workers face numerous safety hazards, most often from speeding motorists who drive too closely to construction zones.
According to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) website, 189 employees including toll collectors and electricians have been killed on the job since 1921. Since 2010 alone, four highway maintenance workers have been killed by speeding motorists, according to Caltrans data on worker fatalities.
A Caltrans spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the investigation or confirm whether the agency will launch its own investigation.