If a blue flashing light appears in the rear view mirror while you’re speeding on Monday, it’s likely because the Louisiana State Police’s LACE ticket program has been reinstated.
“It’s a highway safety program,” said St. Charles Parish District Attorney Joel Chaisson. “It is very important to the safety of our residents and I support it thoroughly.”
LACE or Local Agency Compensated Enforcement returns with program changes aimed at avoiding the issues that resulted in the program being suspended Nov. 8 when four state troopers were accused of claiming extra-duty pay for time they didn’t work, as well as pay for regular duty. Some of this time reportedly was worked in St. Charles Parish.
Nearly three months after the suspension, LACE is back with adjustments for accountability, including a 48-hour cap on overtime worked in a pay period, work allowed in four-hour blocks at a time along with having to file paperwork at the end of each shift. Also, a trooper must confirm the parish where the LACE shift is worked and finish it in the same parish, as well as return home on their time.
State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves said four state troopers are under criminal investigation related to alleged program abuses.
Chaisson welcomed the safeguards aimed at addressing “a few isolated incidents that caused the problems in the first place.”
In the near six years that his office has used LACE, he said it was successful.
With the suspension, Chaisson estimated tickets issued in the parish dropped by about 1,400 per month. He added it was a drop that represented unsafe roadways.
State Police spokeswoman Melissa Matey said their numbers showed a similar drastic change with an estimated 1,489 traffic citations, including LACE tickets, issued in the parish from Oct. 8 through Nov. 7. After LACE was suspended, the number plummeted to 66.
According to Chaisson, “I have not studied it or done an official analysis, but I can tell you upon my personal observation there is more speeding going on (with the program’s suspension).”
State district attorney’s offices for years have had a contract with State Police to provide additional patrols on state highways. For St. Charles Parish, they were typically I-310, U.S. Highway 90, I-10 and Airline Highway.
Chaisson emphasized State Police, not his office, decides LACE areas and there is no quota on tickets. Under the program, DA offices hire the troopers to patrol and write tickets on the highways. The parish keeps the ticket money and reimburses troopers for overtime and mileage.
“The mere presence of these additional troopers on these highways will achieve the desired results, which is to get people to obey the traffic safety laws,” Chaisson said.