Oct 25, 2013
Subject: Ticket Quota Evil
For years you have probably heard people say that police officers have “quotas” to fill each month when it comes to writing traffic tickets. If you’ve ever asked a police officer, chances are you’ve been told “no, why would we do that”? There is now proof that police officers, at least in Utah are filling quotas to win prizes! Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — If you've ever gotten a traffic ticket, you know the sinking feeling you get when police lights pop into your rear view mirror. But what if you found out that citation could be tied to a police department ticket quota or prize contests?
A series of Cottonwood Heights Police Department emails from 2011 and 2012 have recently been revealed and they discuss such quotas and contests.
Some of the emails show police administration offering prizes to officers for writing citations like "free car wash coupons for the next officer to impound vehicles that have no insurance."
In another email, a contest announced a prize of gift cards to the officers who caught anyone tagging or spray painting graffiti.
One Cottonwood Heights resident said he doesn't like the idea of contests for citations.
"That doesn't make sense at all. They should just do their job, that's what they get paid for," Kevin Corkrey said.
Another resident, Shelley Croft, said, "I would like to think that police officers could appropriately manage public safety without having a specific number of people they had to pull over."
In 2011, the Cottonwood Heights chief of police sent an email ordering sergeants to monitor officers who are way below the "norm" when it comes to writing traffic citations, calling it insubordination, and promising to "send the love on down."
It opens the door for a challenge that should not be there. This is their job; they should be doing their job. But when you incentivize them, you're going to get more questionable stops.
–Neal Hamilton, Utah Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys
In one email, a police supervisor suggested disciplinary action may be in order for officers not issuing enough tickets. The email states, "You should have written 36 or 12 per month — you have exactly one day to write 15 citations."
President of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, Neal Hamilton, said the practice sounds a lot like a ticket quota and a way to collect more and more fines.
"When there is this much focus put on something, and you have this much attention being brought to it, then I think it's very hard to not reach that conclusion," Hamilton said.
The Cottonwood Heights chief of police said during a phone interview that officers do not have a ticket quota, but rather a performance standard of three tickets per week to help measure the officers' productivity.
He added the department awards gift cards and other prizes, like shirts and mugs, when an officer goes above and beyond the call of duty and during special public safety campaigns, such as issuing tickets for failing to wear a seat belts or DUIs.
Rewarding officers for going above and beyond is one thing, Hamilton said, but competing to issue the next citation is another.
"From a defense attorney point of view, it opens the door for a challenge that should not be there," Hamilton said. "This is their job; they should be doing their job. But when you incentivize them, you're going to get more questionable stops."