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Bell memo suggests that city police turned ticketing, impounding cars into a game


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.

Click to read the Bell Police Department Baseball Game memo 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.”

The Times obtained a copy of the one-page memo. The L.A. County district attorney’s office said it  received the document last week and launched an investigation. Prosecutors have already charged eight current and former Bell officials with public corruption, including former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, who earned more than $800,000 a year.

After the Bell salary scandal broke last summer, residents complained that police improperly towed cars and fined drivers and charged them exorbitant impound fees in an effort to boost city revenue. One of the most persistent complaints was that police aggressively targeted illegal immigrants, who can’t get licenses in California. Immigrants make up about 50% of Bell’s population.

Bell’s budget shows that over the years the city was generating increased revenue from fees and taxes. City records show that Bell made nearly $1 million in impound fees in fiscal year 2008-09 alone. Bell charged $300 for unlicensed motorists to retrieve their cars, triple what Los Angeles County and neighboring cities charge.

Bell police officers said in interviews in August that they often spent their shifts pulling over drivers for small infractions in the hope that they would turn out to be unlicensed. Although officers didn't look exclusively for immigrants, it was clear that the majority of the drivers pulled over turned out to be illegal immigrants, Officer Kurt Owens said in an interview in August.

“We'd look for younger guys in their 20s and 30s, guys with junkier cars, broken lights, loud music or tinted windows,” he said.

On Monday, Owens said he never saw the memo. “It sounds like a joke; there’s a lot of jokes going around there,” he said.

-- Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Residents outside Bell City Hall last year before a City Council meeting. Credit: L.A. Times

Comments () | Archives (38)

Oink, oink.. !

"Bell charged $300 for unlicensed motorists to retrieve their cars, triple what Los Angeles County and neighboring cities charge."

Well, at least they KNEW who to charge....criminals who BREAK THE LAW at every level.....now, APPLY it to ALL of Bell's racketeers and profiteers.

I'm sure Bell is the only police department in the country with this kind of game and quota system.


And still police chief Randy Adams is a free man, I guess it's not what you do but who you know aye Cooley???

So what's the problem? They were working to get unlicensed (probably uninsured) drivers off the streets. This is one of the worst articles I've ever read. Talk about making an issue out of nothing!

They should look into Santa Monica for this type of abuse as well.

Bell was far from the only city to use the police as a revenue source. "To Protect and Serve" is a joke.

And why is it again that people don't like or trust the Police?

Yikes. Forget traffic stops-- how about awarding people triples and home runs for arresting people? For that matter, a cop could hit a triple for arresting someone on a 5150-- a civil procedure due to mental health problems-- which might just be the most disgusting part.
I notice there isn't anything in the memo for docking points when the arrests turn out to be without probable cause.
I'd bet $50 there is a score-sheet out there somewhere.

GEE... IS THAT WHAT GOES ON IN SAN FRANCISCO EVERYDAY.... I don't really see any difference.

Many of us can't afford the luxury of San Francisco employee perls and pensions and the myriad of benefits they receive and the lowly citizen and taxpayer is hounded everyday...

This couldn't possibly be true. Why on earth would public sector union members target undocumented minorities? Think about it- Democrats attacking future Democrats! I don't believe this story for a minute.

This is nothing new. Police checkpoints are common throughout all southeast cities, not just Bell. The common denominator here is the two yard. How can one tow yard be the exclusive towing agent for all these corrupt cities. Follow the money from this tow yard and it will lead directly into the pockets of elected and un-elected city leaders. Isnt' that how Pedro Carrillo got the job at Bell because he hooked up the towing company - just like he did in Cudahy.

Preying on thier own people - this whole Bell thing is just karma's way of evening the score.

So why didn't unlicensed illegals get turned over to ICE to be prosecuted and deported? A good source of recurring income for Rizzo?

Goniffs on Parade

Wow the police targeted illegal immigrants. How is that surprising? Thats pretty much most of their job, that way they can move up in the ranks, that and being corrupt

This time, the joke's on the Bell PD.

Armed tax collectors - that's all cops are these days it seems.

so the cops were pulling people over for illegal stuff. some happened to be illegal themselves. whats the big deal?

"Although officers didn't look exclusively for immigrants, it was clear that the majority of the drivers pulled over turned out to be illegal immigrants, Officer Kurt Owens said in an interview in August.

“We'd look for younger guys in their 20s and 30s, guys with junkier cars, broken lights, loud music or tinted windows,” he said."

Was Bell the most corrupt city in the US? It seems as though the greed perpetrated every crevice of city government.
My heart goes out to all of the residents and workers who had to deal with this on a day in/day out basis.
If examples aren't made out of their leaders, then justice is truly broken.

This is what all police do. They don't all write it down and call it a game. It's what happens when you live in a failing socialist bureaucracy-fun city (LA) and state (CA). As our economy worsens, expect more cops filling their quotas at the end of every month. Rather than protect and serve, police in LA are little more than tax-collectors. Now excuse me as I go pay my $450 speeding ticket and 70 parking ticket I received in the last 3 weeks.

So why is this a problem?
Shouldn't all police departments aggressively enforce the law, including traffic laws?
It's called PUBLIC SAFETY.
If cops have probably cause to stop you, what happens next is your problem. Registration expired? No driver's license? Arrest warrant for you? Too damn bad.
Now if the allegation is cops were stopping people without probable cause that's different. But I'd rather have cops trying to do their job, than cops too busy eating donuts to get any work done.

I wonder what the Bell PD spokesman will say now. Perhaps another poet can help:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

Citizens see the sun rising.

Uh, like this is not commonplace all over the country. C'mon - cops are corrupt from the start.

Oh, I almost forgot - illegal immigrants are being arrested in the process?
Too damn bad. Throw them in jail and when their sentence is served, deport them.

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