Are Cops Required to Meet Any Kind of Quota for Writing Traffic Tickets? If this is the Case, Is This Not a Conflict?So Today I received a traffic ticket just like thousands of others...It was for speeding, but it just seemed to me like the officer would have given some kind of ticket to me regardless, even to the point that it seemed he would have just made up some reason if it hadn't been speeding.
So what do I think about this? Do I have expertise in this regard? Well, this just happens to be one of my pet peeves!
On the record, and officially, speeding and other traffic ticket quotas are specifically illegal. At the same time, most law agencies circumvent this legality these days. The long and short of it, is that police agencies do have traffic ticket quotas. It is just that they now use other names for their quote such as contact point programs or other euphemisms to the like of that.
These agencies will state that they do not have speeding ticket quotas, or any other kind of traffic ticket writing quotas, yet if an officer does not meet their contact points by the end of any given calendar month (although some agencies have changed their reporting periods to throw citizens off the scent), they will hear about their low levels in the "contact point system." These contact point programs are routinely used in police officer evaluation and employee reports. For legal reasons these local agencies often will keep this kind of information off of written records on an officer's official employee file.
And just how does an officer receive contact points? Each local police agency handles this in a different way, but in my case, the police department I was employed by gave us officers certain points depending on certain types of contacts with citizens. Ticket writing contacts were weighted very heavily in this "non-quota" system.
An officer would generally receive one single contact pt each time a ticket was written, as well as one each time they took responded to a call. So that brings us to the game officers play.
---If an officers is more interested specifically in doing criminal police work such as handling and responding to burglaries, thefts, disorderly conduct, and other types of assaults and the likes, the officer would receive a point each time they handled such a case. This would be irrespective of whether it took the officer 16 hours of investigation time or 30 minutes of investigation. In the example of burglaries and other more serious robberies, it is naturally going to require hours upon hours for completion of the case (if it is even solved or completed at all.) And all that work on a criminal case would only net the officer one point as I said, so this is clearly not weighted heavily.
---Then if an officer on the other hand is nicknamed Officer RADAR Ryan for being a ticket writing devil, the time required to handle this kind of case would be 10 minutes just to handle a little stop sign infraction or a mere 15 minutes to handle a sloppy, fly-by-night speeding ticket. So Officer RADAR Ryan can pound out 30 traffic ticket stops in a single day getting 30 points in the process, while another real crime chaser would only get 4-5 points doing the same day's work handling felony theft cases, robberies, and other burglaries or criminal activities. They might be able to get another 3 for their handling of a few domestic disputes.
So that leads us to the results of these contact point programs. At promotion time, guess who will get promoted? Do you need to wonder whether our ticket devil Officer RADAR Ryan and his 3,000 contact points will win out, or will it be competent criminality fighter? Remember, the crime fighter might only have 400 points because the officer was being conscientious about doing good crime work!
Of course we already realize the reasons behind this point system and the attendant financial windfalls for the departments and cities and other localities issuing the tickets. All this ticket proceed money enters general funds for these jurisdictions with a percentage returning to police departments and other police agencies in order to allow them to spend money buying fancier, new RADAR and Lasers guns.
---This was not the case until laws changed regarding where money from traffic ticket stops was channeled. The money was originally to be used in a manner that 100% of all the ticket revenue was channeled into state education funds, but around the year 1980 the laws were changed such that the traffic ticket fines were then channeled into a general monetary fund, instead of the education fund with the agencies getting a percentage kick back in the deal.
And there is the pressure that caused all these ticket writing quotas. A constant ticket writing pressure is exerted on officers to nail people driving on interstates going through a particular county, city, or state. This brings in ticket revenue from folks not from the area because it is a known fact that people who are not local rarely take the effort or spend the money fighting tickets in jurisdictions away from their local area. Naturally, the departments never officially admit this fact in any kind of public setting; however, the same department officials do assign traffic enforcer patrol cars specially commissioned with this duty who only work the specific areas and highways where folks from out of town frequently travel.
A retired officer of over 20 years Experience Contributed to this Article.