Ticket quotas are a hot topic at Land Line Statehouses

Statehouse activity in at least half a dozen states involves changes intended to end practices that require law enforcement officers to participate in ticket quotas.

Communities nationwide are able to generate revenue from different types of fines. In some localities, fines represent a disproportionate amount of local revenue. These municipalities are known to be speed traps.

The National Automobile Association states that “a speed trap exists wherever traffic enforcement focuses on extracting revenue from drivers instead of improving safety”.

According to figures compiled by Governance magazine, there are approximately 600 jurisdictions across the country where fines and forfeitures account for more than 10% of general fund revenue. There are 80 where the share exceeded 50%.

About 20 states have taken action to discourage practices that lead law enforcement officers to write tickets.

Across the map, state lawmakers have considered rules aimed at weeding out potential abuses.

Alabama

In Alabama, a House bill sought to prevent ticketing abuse.

HB129 would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from establishing ticket quotas.

Agencies would also be prohibited from offering inducements or rewards for issuing tickets.

The bill did not advance from committee.

Maryland

At the Maryland border, an internal bill addresses quota concerns.

Sponsored by Delegate Robin Grammer, R-Baltimore, HB666 would prohibit the use of ticket quotas for the promotion, demotion, termination and transfer of an officer.

Law enforcement agencies would be prohibited from requesting or directing an officer to issue more citations or arrests.

The bill is at the House Judiciary Committee.

Michigan

The Michigan legislation would revise the state’s rule on issuing citations.

Since 2010, Michigan law prohibits a police officer from being required to issue a certain number of citations for traffic violations.

According to a legislative analysis from the time, while police departments were generally prohibited from requiring officers to write a specified number of tickets, there were reports of departments engaging in similar practices. Examples included offering prizes to the agent who writes the most tickets in a given period or denying promotions to agents who write few tickets.

The 2010 law attempted to address concerns about the abuse of ticket quotas. However, a statutory exception allows the use of ticket numbers as part of a police officer’s evaluation system.

The only requirement for the inclusion of the ticketing component is that the issuance of citations be given no more consideration than any other factor in evaluating an officer’s performance.

Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, is behind a bill prohibiting a police officer’s performance review from including any consideration of citations issued.

The bill, SB599, is at the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. A similar bill, HB5723, is in the House Government Operations Committee.

Meanwhile, legislation dealing with the issue of ticket quotas at two state houses is dead.

Mississippi

For the third year in a row, a lawsuit in the Mississippi State House called for a ban on any law enforcement agency from establishing a policy requiring agents to meet ticket quotas.

A year ago, House lawmakers voted in favor of the lawsuit. The bill died in the Senate.

This year’s version did not advance from the committee. HB802 sought to prohibit the number of arrests or citations issued by an officer from being the sole criteria for promotion, demotion, or termination.

Arrests or citations issued could be taken into account when evaluating overall performance.

new York

In New York, bills from both chambers also cover the issue.

The Empire State prohibits an employer from transferring or penalizing a police officer for failing to meet an established ticketing quota.

Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, D-Nanuet points out that it is possible, however, that an employer could refuse a promotion to a police officer who does not meet a quota.

“Penalties should always be used as a means to an end — inducing compliance — and should never be viewed as a guaranteed source of revenue,” Reichlin-Melnick wrote in a memo.

A1187/S8259 would prohibit state agencies from imposing or suggesting an application quota. Agencies would be prohibited from using ticketing numbers as the primary criteria for evaluating agents.

Ticket numbers may not be used to reward performance or be used to transfer, reassign, reject or decline a promotion.

Bills await committee review.

Virginia

Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have unanimously approved legislation prohibiting law enforcement from setting target ticket quotas.

SB327/HB750 would prohibit agencies from using the number of arrests or citations issued by an officer as the sole criteria for evaluating officers.

The rule would apply to state police, sheriff’s departments and local police.

During a Senate committee hearing, at least one committee member expressed surprise that quotas exist in Virginia.

“You used to hear about it all the time many, many years ago. I thought that was pretty much something that was being suppressed,” said Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax. “You say it still exists?”

Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, said some state departments continue to have quotas.

“We just want to end it,” Reeves said.

More status trends

Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, tracks many trends among state houses across the United States. Here are some recent articles by him.

Jessica C. Bell