Eight states taking steps to end ticket quotas

March 3, 2021

Keith Goble

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Pursuit continues at statehouses around the country to put an end to ticket quotas that require law enforcement officers to partake in citation-writing sprees.

Communities nationwide are able to generate revenue from different types of fines. In certain locales, fines account for a disproportionate amount of local revenues. These municipalities are known for being speed traps.

The National Motorists Association says that “a speed trap exists wherever traffic enforcement is focused on extracting revenue from drivers instead of improving safety.”

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

About 20 states have acted to discourage practices that pressure law enforcement officers to write citations to meat ticket quotas.

State legislators from New Jersey to Alabama continue to seek rules aimed to eliminate potential abuses.

Alabama

One Alabama House bill is intended to prevent ticketing abuses.

Sponsored by Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, the bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from establishing ticket quotas.

Agencies also would be forbidden from providing incentives for issuing traffic tickets.

The bill, HB362, is in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Illinois

An effort underway at the Illinois statehouse is focused on thwarting overzealous ticketing.

Since 2014, Illinois law has forbidden any requirement “to issue a specific number of citations within a designated period of time.” Law enforcement agencies are prohibited from evaluating personnel based on the number of tickets written or arrests made.

The 7-year-old law allowed state, county and municipal police departments to continue to use officer contacts as an evaluative tool. The exercise covers any instance where an officer makes contact with someone.

Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, is behind a bill to prohibit municipalities from using points systems, ticket quotas or any related process to track or account for citations or warnings issued by a police officer. Specifically, the number of traffic stops completed and written warnings could not be included in the state’s definition of “points of contact.”

HB3055 is in the House Rules Committee.

Minnesota

Pursuit continues in the Minnesota Legislature to address concerns about policing for profit.

Minnesota law forbids law enforcement agencies from implementing an order, mandate, requirement or suggestion to an officer concerning a ticket quota.

Legislation would extend the protection to include prohibiting any agency from using the number of citations issued, the number of traffic stops made, or traffic enforcement activity by an officer as criteria to evaluate performance. The protection would also apply to arrests.

The House bill, HF244, is in the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee. The Senate version, SF313, is in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

Mississippi

The Mississippi House voted 118-1 to advance a bill to prohibit any law enforcement agency from establishing a policy that requires officers to meet a ticket quota. It now moves to the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Rickey Thompson, D-Shannon, the measure would forbid the number of arrests or citations issued by an officer from being the sole criteria for a promotion, demotion, or dismissal.

Arrests or citations issued could be considered when evaluating overall performance.

The bill, HB883, is in the Senate Judiciary Division B Committee.

Oklahoma

A bill on the move in the Oklahoma Senate targets ticket quotas.

State law prohibits cities and towns from generating more than half of their revenue through traffic fines.

The Senate General Government Committee voted to approve a bill that would outlaw local governments and police departments from requiring officers to issue a certain number of citations within a specific period of time. Additionally, agencies would be prohibited from evaluating personnel based on the number of tickets written or arrests made.

Violators would face removal from their position.

“It’s no secret that quotas exist for many jurisdictions across the state,” Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, said in prepared remarks. “These practices prohibit our law enforcement officers from effectively doing their jobs.”

The bill, SB346, now heads to the Senate floor.

New Jersey

One New Jersey bill halfway through the statehouse is intended to curb policing for profit.

State law prohibits ticketing numbers from being the “sole” factor when evaluating officer performance.

The Senate-approved bill, S1322, would close the loophole. Specifically, law enforcement agencies would be prohibited from using the volume of an officer’s arrests or citations as a factor when evaluating that officer’s overall performance.

“Officers are all too often pressured to write more tickets to increase revenue and help municipalities balance their budgets,” Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Hunterdon/Mercer, said in previous remarks.

Critics say there is no “one size fits all” standard of performance for law enforcement. Instead, police chiefs need to have the ability to establish performance measures and expectations specific to their individual agencies.

Another provision in the bill would prohibit agencies from posting arrest and citation data in common areas accessible to all officers “to create competition between officers concerning arrests and citations.”

The bill is in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

New York

Across the state line in New York, bills introduced in both chambers also address the issue of ticket quotas.

An Assembly bill is meant to remove a gap in the protection against overzealous ticketing.

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

Bill supporters point out it is possible, however, that an employer could deny a promotion to a police officer who fails to meet a quota.

In an effort to address the concern, A1405 would outlaw an employer from denying a promotion to an officer solely because the officer failed to meet an established quota.

The bill is in the Assembly Labor Committee.

A related bill in the Senate Labor Committee covers concern about ticket quotas.

S1253 would specify that violation of existing statute could result in up to one year in jail.

Pennsylvania

A bill in the Pennsylvania House would ban ticket quota language for any regional police department or agency in the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland, the bill would outlaw any quota order, mandate, or requirement.

The protection would forbid law enforcement agencies from directly or indirectly, suggesting to any officer that the officer issue a certain number of citations over a specified period of time.

The bill, HB134, is in the House Transportation Committee. LL

More state trends

Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, keeps track of many trends among statehouses across the U.S. Here are some recent articles by him.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.