fact or fiction: police officers monthly ticket quota?
July 25, 2005 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Help me sort fact from fiction: do police officers in the US have a monthly quota or target (official or unofficial) for the number of tickets they need to issue?
posted by netsirk to Law & Government (17 answers total)
 
No. They do sometimes have quotas for the number of traffic stops, but not for tickets. (Learned this from a friend who is a cop.)
posted by BradNelson at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2005


Here is an example. And to say that you might be pulled over for doing "nothing" is a farse...if you're going 1 mph over the limit, that's reason to stop. Or following too close, etc.
posted by BradNelson at 12:24 PM on July 25, 2005


Yes. In New York they have a quota, it's just called an 'expectation'. Here is an article about the practice.
posted by haqspan at 12:39 PM on July 25, 2005


"BradNelson: And to say that you might be pulled over for doing "nothing" is a farse...if you're going 1 mph over the limit, that's reason to stop."

Huh? From your own link: So, yes, in Montana, at least, you can indeed be pulled over for "doing nothing".

FWIW, I once asked an officer point blank whether or not he worked under a quota system. He started to answer, then stopped, and answered, "I have a job to do." He repeatedly refused to answer the question directly, yes or no.
posted by LordSludge at 12:46 PM on July 25, 2005


I know two women who've dated police officers (in Tennessee and Florida), and in both cases, the officers said something along the lines of, "Officially, no, but yes." What they meant could've been as simple as what BradNelson points out, or it could mean that some jurisdictions rely on police fines as a major revenue stream and occasionally pressure the officers to generate a predictable amount.
posted by kimota at 12:50 PM on July 25, 2005


The lieutenant in charge of Berkeley's traffic enforcement commented on this in the Berkeley Police Citizen Academy (a PR exercise by the police giving a survey of what the police do and how.) The answer seemed, again, officially, no, unofficially, yes. Namely that, for a beat cop, issuing a small number of citations would be expected; if your job were traffic enforcement, per se, and you weren't making substantially more than that, you wouldn't be considered to be doing your job well.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:27 PM on July 25, 2005


A cop friend in Miami told me at the time that there is no hard number but his supervisor would talk to him if his numbers were 'low'. However it sounded quite short of what I'd think of as a quota; he would also be spoken to if he was regularly not making his court appearances. Both things were subject to many factors and there wasn't any magic number where X == okay but X-1 == bad.
posted by phearlez at 1:30 PM on July 25, 2005


Also cops are often subject to annual performance reviews. For traffic cops one of the few personal, objective, metrics is volume and nature of citations. So although rarely are "you must write 100 tickets per month" quotas enforced; when it comes time to decide promotions or layoffs the guy with only 50 tickets can be passed over or thought of first. Or at least there is that perception by cops.
posted by Mitheral at 1:38 PM on July 25, 2005


First, I do think what is mentioned above is probably accurate, that there is some pressure, official or not, on cops, particularly traffic cops and highway patrol, to write tickets.

However, I would bet that the vast majority of stops made and tickets written are for actual traffic violations. That is, it's not as if I think cops are stopping people who are NOT breaking the law just to meet quotas. Just that, if there is not a pressure to maintain quotas, they might let someone off and not stop them if they are a mere X over the speed limit instead of 2X.

I used to travel a lot by car and there were 2 sections, one to the north of me and one to the south, that were notorious speed traps. I got stopped there a couple times each and each time I was pretty sure there was a quota, and there probably was. But I was breaking the limit each time, just in a fashion that in MOST jurisdictions won't get you stopped (i.e. less than 10 over the limit). But still, I was breaking the law.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:59 PM on July 25, 2005


I would interpret these "no but yes" or "expectations but not quotas" and the article on New York like this:

It's not that they're expected to just find someone to stop for whatever, but that if you didn't stop X number of people, you just weren't watching. If I had the power to ticket people I could easily ticket 10-20 cars on my walk from home to the office. People parked illegally, people running yellow and red lights, people who don't stop when I want to cross the street, people idling their cars, people littering, people not signalling, people not stopping at stop signs etc. etc. So if you gave me the ticket book and I gave out 3 tickets, then you would think something was up.

There is no shortage of people breaking the law. If you claim you just couldn't find some reasonable number of people to ticket, you're just lying.

Provided the "quota" is within this reasonable range (i.e. a little lower than the number of people you could on average ticket if you were paying a reasonable amount of attention), then "quota" probably isn't the right word...it's more about when you're going to start looking incompetent. And whatever you call them, they're a good idea. Let's raise those quotas.
posted by duck at 3:19 PM on July 25, 2005


That sums it up a lot better than I was able to.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:32 PM on July 25, 2005


My brother was a deputy sheriff in South Carolina, and duck (above) pretty much described his experience.
posted by mischief at 3:48 PM on July 25, 2005


The problem is that people won't respect the law, or officers of the law, if they are ticketed indiscriminately. 5 mph over, failure to signal, slowing but not stopping at a stop sign at a totally clear intersection, ANYTHING that was accidental and didn't harm anyone, etc. Nearly everyone does these things at some point, and let's face it, it doesn't cause a problem.

So I think it makes a lot of sense for officers to be given considerable discretion about which offenses are overlooked.
posted by trevyn at 4:24 PM on July 25, 2005


The problem is that people won't respect the law, or officers of the law, if they are ticketed indiscriminately. 5 mph over, failure to signal, slowing but not stopping at a stop sign at a totally clear intersection, ANYTHING that was accidental and didn't harm anyone, etc. Nearly everyone does these things at some point, and let's face it, it doesn't cause a problem.

I tend to favour ticketing for these things even if it "doesn't cause a problem" because it does cause a problem. If when you're going to turn you check to see if there's anyone around and there's no one around so you don't signal, that's a problem. Why? Because you've turned signaling into a decision rather than an automatic reflex. Once you've done that you're more likely to forget at a moment when it does matter, and you're also introducing the possiblity that one day you'll think it's ok not to signal and it's not.

Also, this is probably a Massachusetts thing, but it seems like the drivers around here, on those rare occasions when they do choose to try to drive responsibly, drive only for each other. They're not scanning the sidewalks or intersections for pedestrians who may be affected, they think its ok to park at intersections if there's still room for cars to turn, they don't realize that pedestrians also need to know if they're planning on turning etc. etc.

If "quotas" prevent cops from buying lame justifications like "well no one got hurt", then good for quotas. And if people think it's just a money-grab, they can thward it by signalling.
posted by duck at 5:26 PM on July 25, 2005


LordSludge: What RustyBrooks and duck said.

The source of the quota system is to make sure these tax-dollar-paid cops are actually working. I personally favor it for that reason. If we didn't have these quotas, they could spend their entire shift at Dinky Donuts, then say "oh, we didn't see anyone breaking the law."
posted by BradNelson at 5:52 PM on July 25, 2005


As my brother, the cop, put it, "We don't have a quota, but we want our stats to look good".
posted by mewithoutyou at 10:50 PM on July 25, 2005


A little late to the game...but, I took a Criminal Justice course here in Missouri a couple years ago. My professor, an ex-cop, told us that yes, they do have quotas and yes, it's all about money. He instructed us to be extra cautious toward the end of each month as that is quota-filling and bill-paying time. He also said that when the officers hadn't been writing enough tickets, there would be a meeting in which the officers were essentially directed to get out there and bring in some revenue. Eek.
posted by crapulent at 7:42 AM on July 26, 2005


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