Investigative

Unpaid Parking Tickets Linked To Police Officers

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We uncovered thousands of unpaid parking tickets issued to personal cars of police officers and other law enforcement personnel.

We uncovered thousands of unpaid parking tickets issued to personal cars of police officers and other law enforcement personnel.

David_Goldstein_08062010 David Goldstein
Investigative Reporter David Goldstein has been honored with the 2013...
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Officer William Grundy with the Los Angeles County Police is sworn to uphold the law, but we found that he has hundreds of unpaid parking tickets for personal vehicles registered in his name.

Officer Grundy was happy to see me until he found out why we were there.

David Goldstein: “You have more than 250 citations on the two cars you have. Do you know that?”

Officer Grundy: “No, I didn’t know that.”

David Goldstein: “You have five pages of citations, all around your house. How don’t you know that?”

Officer Grundy: “I can’t talk about it but it’s nice seeing you.”

We have obtained a database listing thousands of unpaid parking tickets issued to people who work in law enforcement and other sensitive positions.

So while the average person, like Travis Franklin, has to pay his tickets, these people haven’t.

Travis Franklin:
“That’s just not cool. It’s not right.”

David Goldstein: “You have to pay yours?”

Travis Franklin:
“Of course.”

The same goes for law enforcement — they don’t get a free ride on parking tickets for their personal cars. They have to pay up just like we do.

But we have found thousands in the City of L.A. who haven’t paid and most of them never even received a violation notice in the mail reminding them that the ticket is overdue.

That is because the license plates are registered to people, like police officers and others in sensitive jobs, who are allowed to hide their home addresses under the state’s confidential records program. The license plates look like any others in the state, but if someone has access to a DMV computer, no personal information would show up.

It’s designed to protect police from criminals, but it also creates a loophole by making it difficult for agencies, like the city’s Department of Transportation to track down the registered owners if the tickets are overdue.

“The confidential plates are protected under DMV rules, so we do not receive the actual name of the individual or the address. So we are unable to make the required notification under the vehicle code.”

Without that information, they cannot ask the DMV to stop the renewal of the registration or even put a boot on the car.

We have found nearly 16,000 unpaid tickets in the City of L.A., amounting to just under $700,000 when you add up the original violations, but it is more than double with the fines.

There are all kinds of tickets, all over town — parking in handicapped spots, in front of fire hydrants, expired meters, red zones, yellow zones and white zones.

We found LAPD Officers, L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies and more.

We crunched the numbers and found the most tickets registered to two vehicles in the name of Officer Grundy — 254 unpaid parking tickets. Officer Grundy works for the L.A. County Police; they patrol the parks and other county buildings.

Grundy did not have any explanations.

David Goldstein: “How do you not know it? We got tickets on your car just last week. Do you have disregard for the law?”

Officer Grundy: “No.”

David Goldstein:
“Are you allowed to park anywhere?”

Officer Grundy:
“Not at all.

David Goldstein:
“It feels like you do. Let me talk to you.”

Officer Grundy: “I can’t man.”

Number two on the list is a car registered to Belinda Womack, a parole officer with L.A. County. She has 65 unpaid tickets dating back to 2006 on a car registered in her name, but claims she’s paying them off.

Officer Womack: “I’m taking care of my tickets.”

David Goldstein:
“You’re taking care of them? This database if from the city, 57 of 65 were around your house. Are you taking advantage of the system?”

Officer Womack: “Not at all.”

David Goldstein:
“But you haven’t paid them in four years?”

Officer Womack: “I work late hours and I’m making arrangements.”

The City Department of Transportation will not say if she is paying them off, but they do say her number of unpaid tickets has now gone up five in the past month.

Also on the list is LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger. We found 18 unpaid tickets since 2006 on a car that was registered to him and his son. They have since sold it.

The assistant chief says he did not know.

“I believe he was a student at the time and if I’m responsible, if he is responsible, I will absolutely make sure either he or I pays for them,” Paysinger said.

Sure enough, days after we talked with the assistant chief, the tickets were paid.

“Nobody is above the law,” said Assemblyman Jeff Miller, who is looking to put a stop to some law enforcement personnel abusing the system.

He introduced a bill that would prevent those in the program with unpaid tickets from re-registering their cars, just like everyone else.

“No government worker should be above the law. Clearly they have found a loophole in the system to avoid paying these fines and tickets and my bill will seek to close that loophole and make sure they pay their fines just like the average hard working citizen does,” Miller said.

The bill is making its way through the legislature. Until then, the city has started to go through the database ticket by ticket and send letters to the chiefs of police and other supervisors in the hopes they can get the officers to pay up — just like everyone else.

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