The public, too, disagrees. Some citizens support quotas for making their communities safer and admonish “whiners” to simply obey the law. Others complain about blue-haired ladies being stopped for 5 miles over the speed limit the last day of the month in order to fund inflated salaries and benefits for cops, prosecutors and judges.
Reasonable minds may debate the ethics of ticket quotas. But, once quotas have been made illegal as a matter of statute or case law, there are legal and ethical implications to police brass hiding the practice behind job performance jargon that are a lot more serious than a pizza party.
A quota by any other name still stinks.
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
~ Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet ~
Shakespeare’s oft-quoted prose means that what matters is what something is, not what it’s called.
In Arlington, Virginia, just last month, the county police department called what looked like a quota, walked like a quota and talked like a quota, a “proactivity expectation,” while the department back pedaled in headline news before rescinding it’s smelly duck.
While disclaiming any quota, an internal department memo (leaked to a local news station) titled “Proactivity expectations” set out minimum performance expectations for officers in terms of numbers of arrests, field observation reports, traffic summons and parking citations. The memo set a limit for “warnings only” at 25% of traffic stops. The memo also stated, “Consistently failing to attain these goals could result in disciplinary action.”
Maryland is one of the states that passed a statute specifically prohibiting “formal or informal quotas” or using a number of arrests of citations as “a primary criterion for promotion, demotion, dismissal or transfer.”
From sea to shining sea there’s plenty of recent news to support anecdotal statements from police union reps and cops on the internet that quota practices exist,
· $2 million awarded to Los Angeles officers who alleged ticket quota, http://www.policeone.com/traffic-patrol/articles/3534611-2-million-awarded-to-Los-Angeles-officers-who-alleged-ticket-quota/
· Whistle-blower traffic warden who revealed 10-a-day ticket quota gets £20,000 payout because he can’t return to work, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2107251/Hakim-Berkani-Traffic-warden-revealed-10-day-ticket-quota-gets-20k-payout.html#ixzz1rl4G8EyF
Whatever you call it, placing formal or informal enumerated expectations on officers for citations, tickets and arrests, as opposed to stops and contacts, is a quota. Trying to dodge the spirit of quota prohibitions by cloaking them in job performance jargon looks bad because it is bad. What message about ethical conduct does the brass send the front line with such ethical contortionism?
I now have a new ethical scenario to add to my police ethics training.
You are assigned to traffic enforcement. You know your state has a law that prohibits formal or informal quotas or using a number of citations or tickets as a criterion for evaluating officer job performance. Your department issues an internal memo that [insert Arlington PD memo language]. What do you do, if anything?
We reap what we sow.
Just this year a Maryland Judge (who was formerly a prosecutor) dismissed a DUI case, ruling that the stop was linked to an illegal quota. The crux of the defense was subpoenaed police memos that some officers perceived as a quota. Defense attorneys are heralding the ruling as a new defense in DUI and other traffic violation cases.
And if judges don’t dismiss cases on this ground, expect defense attorneys to cross examine officers on any possible quota to attack the officer’s credibility on the issue of bias, i.e., an improper motive for the stop.
Another wrinkle to the bigger controversy.
The perceived quota in the dismissed Maryland DUI case reportedly didn’t arise out of job performance evaluations but rather from a federal grant. The Police Chief said the grant “mandated that an average of 2-4 citations must be written per hour on each of these details by each officer or future funding may be withheld.”
I leave you with a question. Is there an ethical difference between hidden illegal quotas in order to get federal grant money and fudging crime stats for the same or other reasons?