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Bell police game gave points for quotas

March 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
As a preliminary hearing continued Tuesday for former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo and former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia on corruption charges, another scandal is emerging in Bell - this time for the police department.

Bell police are under scrutiny for reportedly going after motorists too aggressively in order to bring in more money and boost city revenue.

A memo titled, "Bell Police Department Baseball Game," assigns "singles," "doubles," triples" and "home runs" according to the severity of the violations, reported the Los Angeles Times. It is not clear if administrators condoned the memo.

The Justice Department is already investigating claims that police were told to write tickets to drum up revenue for the city, which was paying exorbitant salaries to its officials.

"It's like working in a piranha tank: As soon as blood was drawn, everybody's on you," said Bell Police Officer Kurt Owens, a member of the Bell Police Officers Association.

Owens said that is what it was like working under Rizzo. Owens said Rizzo had a quota policy and there was pressure to seize cars and make arrests.

"There was a piece of paper that had impounds, arrests, citations, parking citations, and you were to have to tell the sergeant prior to your shift how much you were going to do," said Owens. He said officers found the policy offensive, and that it wasn't a real memo.

"I think basically what this was and from what I gather is it was a parody to ridicule the emphasis on impounds and quota that had been put on the officers," said Owens.

"We have no idea where the memo came from," said interim city manager Pedro Carrillo. "We can tell you that we continue to work with all the different agencies that continue to have open investigations on several matters here in the city of Bell."

"We're looking into it. I would prefer not to comment as to what our investigation may be, as the city attorney, and what our internal policies may be," said Jaime Casso, acting Bell city attorney.

In downtown L.A.'s testimony Monday, Bell's financial administrator, Lourdes Garcia, who was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony, said Rizzo personally authorized dozens of loans totaling nearly $2 million.

The district attorney said most of the loans went to city employees and council members.

Rizzo's lawyer did not deny that his client took out those loans, but he did say the loans were conducted legally.

Rizzo is charged with more than 50 counts of misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest and falsifying public records.

Former Bell City Councilman Luis Artiga, who has received one of the now-infamous Bell city loans, came to Rizzo's defense on Monday.

Rizzo's lawyer said the district attorney still has not provided any proof that Rizzo took the loans illegally, and Artiga echoed that sentiment as he tried to protect himself.

"I know that the truth will set me free. I feel very strong, I heard the evidence and I know that I've done nothing wrong," said Artiga.

"They all were repaid in full without a penny cost to the city, and so the district attorney is basically going to have to prove that when Mr. Rizzo approved these loans, he at the time knew he was without authority to do so, and there's going to be no evidence of that," said James Spertus, Rizzo's attorney.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.