LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - This week the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint with the Ethics Board concerning LACE tickets.
LACE stands for local agency compensated enforcement. One local defense attorney says it invites corruption from top to bottom.
But Calcasieu DA John DeRosier says it helps local programs and increases public safety.
Through LACE the DA takes in money, $4.4 million in Calcasieu.
The off-duty police make overtime.
Those ticketed can pay it without going to court and avoid higher insurance rates.
Calcasieu DA John DeRosier says it's great.
"A LACE ticket does not go on your record. It does not cost you in Calcasieu Parish nearly as much as a regularly issued traffic ticket," he said.
LACE is supposed to focus patrols on high crash areas.
"And we have done that. And when we do it we have brought down the number of crashes," he said.
But this man who we'll call Joe disputes that they focus on high crash areas.
"They're finding any small violation, the smallest thing in the most unexpected area."
He thinks it's a racket:
"To me a version of modern day racketeering and corruption."
The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the program a for-profit diversion scheme.
"We filed the complaint because we're concerned that district attorneys are abusing their charging authority to make money for the district attorney's office. District attorneys across the state have been making millions of dollars by hiring off-duty police officers to issue special traffic tickets in La. that gives motorists the opportunity buy their way out of prosecution and those who don't have that money face prosecution," said Micah West, an attorney with the Law Center.
But DeRosier disputes that.
"I am not going to apologize for saving lives in Calcasieu Parish. I'm not going to apologize for implementing programs that give young first offenders of non-violent crimes, a second chance in life," said DeRosier.
DeRosier says nearly a half million dollars went to the local public defender.
"In 2017 I funded the local public defender's office in Calcasieu Parish 437,000 out of the lace program," he said.
But Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Micah West has a problem with that.
"When the district attorney is paying the public defender, it creates the appearance that the public defender is beholden to the district attorney's office, for his financing," he said.
In Calcasieu Parish off-duty State Police, Lake Charles Police, Ward 3 deputy marshals, and Sulphur Police write lace tickets.