A memo discovered in Bell police files appears to outline a game in which police officers compete to issue tickets, impound cars and arrest motorists.
Titled the "Bell Police Department Baseball Game," the memo assigns "singles," "doubles," "triples" and "home runs" to progressively more serious infractions, starting with parking tickets and moving on to vehicle impounds and felony arrests of drivers. "Non-performers," the memo says, are "sent for minor league rehab stint."
The discovery of the memo comes as the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Bell police violated the civil rights of residents through aggressive towing of cars and code enforcement. Part of the investigation focuses on claims by some officers that the department had quotas for issuing tickets and impounding cars, which they said was done to raise revenue for the city. Some officers said they were reprimanded when they did not meet goals.
It's the first document suggesting a concerted effort to have officers pull over more cars, though it's unclear who wrote the memo and whether department brass condoned it.
At least two Bell police officials said they were familiar with the memo, which they said circulated a few years ago. Bell Police Capt. Anthony Miranda said he thought a few patrolmen wrote it "to challenge themselves" and when department leaders found out about it, they "squashed it."
"I think guys created it on their own and when the administration heard about it, they put a stop to it," added Lt. Ty Henshaw. Department leaders said "It's cool and fun and we appreciate the motivation, but it's not going to look good."
I suppose it's possible that this memo and the contemporaneous complaints of illegal towing, ticketing, and other harassment of motorists, coupled with the resulting revelation that Bell city officials were drawing massive salaries while the city went deep into the red . . . are entirely coincidental. Seems unlikely, though, doesn't it?
Also, assuming Capt. Miranda (great name!) is telling the truth, isn't it at least a little problematic that upon learning that some of their officers were making a game of due process, Bell police officials merely "squashed" the memo, instead of investigating and disciplining the officers responsible?
Here's my favorite part of the memo:
Honor system in place and violation will result in one day suspension.
Well of course. In our game to deprive motorists of their rights in order to enrich grossly overpaid city officials, there's no place for cheaters! Honor among thieves, and all that.
Reason's ongoing coverage of the Bell, California, scandal here.