What they did was all in an effort to get themselves to court and thus eligible for court overtime pay, according to city disciplinary records. There were four officers involved and all four have been suspended without pay.
Three of the four officers suspended worked out of HPD's central patrol, and you might remember one of them from a 13 Undercover investigation. Two years ago, senior police officer Matthew Davis was writing about 10,000 tickets a month, earning him in 2009 about $60,000 in overtime pay. Testifying at court earns police officers overtime.
Davis, Sgt. Paul Terry and officers Steven Running and Kenneth Bigger are all off the job because of some of their ticket-writing practices.
According to city disciplinary records, they unnecessarily listed one another as witnesses on tickets. One officer just drove himself to the city jail where a suspect had already been taken. The investigation concluded they not only lacked sound judgment but did so to accrue court overtime compensation. An audit of two traffic stops involving the officers revealed the scheme, and the chief handed down punishment.
"Twenty, 30, 45-day suspensions are heavy suspensions," Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said.
The police union attorney for the officers called listing multiple officers as witnesses on tickets a normal practice and said the allegations were much ado about nothing. He said the officers couldn't do anything to change the chief's perception, so they accepted their punishment.
"I think they're hardworking guys," defense attorney Harold Landreneau said.
Landreneau knows the officers well from court and their reputation as high ticket writers. He can't help but think the city is missing them.
"I know they're out there writing all the time and the usual spots that I see them, I haven't seen them lately so I'm sure the numbers have gone down for the city," he said.
The shortest suspension of 20 days is up next week. The longest, 45 days for the sergeant, is up October 20. The records don't say how many tickets the officers wrote using each other as witnesses or much they earned in overtime pay from them.
It's important to note the department still thinks the tickets were valid.