BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A recent investigation revealed many of the overtime dollars paid to state workers last year went to Louisiana State Police, but a program known as LACE plays a big part in that overtime money paid to troopers.
LACE stands for Local Area Compensated Enforcement. Taking a look at the 72 state troopers who made the most overtime pay last year, about 30% of their overtime pay came from LACE. The program is run by some district attorneys in the state to pay for traffic enforcement, including DWIs. "DAs are willing to pay overtime to have somebody monitor traffic situation rather than have no enforcement at all," said Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association.
The money comes out of the operating budgets of the district attorneys and their criminal court funds, including fines. The number one overtime maker from 21 state agencies examined, Trooper Daryl Thomas, made more than $80,000 in overtime last year. Of that amount, $44,000 came from LACE money. Another trooper took in more than $41,000 from LACE last year. "As a result, sometimes there are additional traffic tickets written and that will reimburse some of that," Adams said.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore says his parish has not paid LACE for as long as he can remember. "We average about 48,000 tickets a year from all the different agencies," he said. "So, I believe that our streets are as safe as they can be with enforcement."
Both men say the best way to relieve the amount paid in LACE funding would be to have enough state troopers equally disbursed throughout the state, making the LACE program unnecessary. "We've had discussions about more equitable distribution of troopers and they are doing the best they can," said Adams. "It's just that without adequate numbers, they just aren't able to get the kind of enforcement that some areas need."
It's up to each local district attorney whether or not to use LACE and how much they decide to pay state troopers. Whatever the price tag, Adams says it's a program he expects district attorneys to rely on well into the future.