As cities across the nation struggle with budget deficits, it is becoming more apparent that police officers are being asked to write more tickets and attend more court hearings to prevent citations from being automatically thrown out and increase city revenue. Some police departments are not hiding this, either.
The police union President from Atlanta’s police department wrote an email earlier in the year to officers informing them that their pay raises will be effected by the tickets that they write and the number of court hearings they show up to. “Future pay increases are in our hands,” he wrote. The city maintains that no official quota exists and that the department is merely encouraging increased attendance at court hearings.
But police officers are not stupid. In the end, the Atlanta policy means that the more tickets that officers write and court hearings that they show up to, the greater their pay.
In Arkansas, Bethel Heights police chief Don McKinnon was fired from the department after audio recordings surfaced of McKinnon encouraging officers to “find some reason” to make traffic stops, “even if I made them do something stupid”.
“The numbers are way low…You can only get those numbers if you’re doing traffic stops,” said the voice on the recording – attributed to McKinnon. One of Bethel Heights’ police officers said that the chief effectively told him to “do whatever it takes to get the tickets even if you have to make somebody do something wrong.”
“I wanna stop that car load of dumb shits in the car, I wanna stop it, but they are not going to do anything wrong. Hell, I’ll get behind or the other lane and I’d start crowding them. Kinda dirty pool but I got two or three arrests out of it.”
In New York, a police officer was fired from the department after writing fraudulent traffic tickets to dead people under quota guidelines from the police department. The fired officer claims that higher ups told him to start issuing more red light and seat belt violation tickets.
This, after earlier reports that the New York Police Department intentionally under-reported crimes, issued citations to people for doing nothing more than “standing on the street” and encouraged officers to manipulate stats in an effort to artificially inflate the department’s effectiveness.
“Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports.”
This summer, an Auburn police officer filed suit against his department for requiring officers to write more tickets and increase the number of arrests “in adherence to predetermined mathematical formulas”. The officer claims that he was threatened with negative performance evaluations if he did not issue AT LEAST two citations and two warnings each day, regardless of his precinct’s true criminal atmosphere. After voicing his concerns with the department, the officer was suspended without pay for 4 days and later reassigned to bike patrol.
Earlier in the year, police officers in East Orange, New Jersey claim that their department is asking officers to ticket people based on department quotas and threatened with discipline if their ticket numbers are not up to standard.
Similarly in Tucson, Arizona, new department quotas make it 4 times more likely to get pulled over in the city after new city-wide quotas were enforced earlier in the year. Now, each officer must write at least one traffic ticket per day or face disciplinary action. Tucson Police is notoriously under-staffed, and in addition to their hefty workload each day, each officer now takes on the additional burden of meeting ticket quotas.
Two officers are suing the Shreveport, Louisiana police department over the department’s use of quotas to measure how effective officers are at their jobs and to reward officers that bring in the most revenue. The suit also claims that officers that meet department quotas are rewarded with preferential days off.