Eleven states take steps to end ticket quotas
February 2, 2022
Efforts underway at statehouses around the country are intended to put an end to practices that force law enforcement officers to meet ticket quotas.
Communities nationwide are able to generate revenue from different types of fines. In certain locales, fines account for a disproportionate amount of local revenue. 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 revenue. There are 80 where the share exceeds 50%.
About 20 states have acted to discourage practices that pressure law enforcement officers to write tickets.
State legislators from Alabama to Pennsylvania are pursuing rules aimed to eliminate potential abuses.
The Virginia Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to prohibit law enforcement agencies from setting a target number of tickets for officers to write.
Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, SB327 would prohibit agencies from using the number of arrests or citations issued by an officer from being the sole criteria in officer evaluation.
The ticket quota rule would apply to the Virginia 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 these all the time many, many, many, many years ago. I thought that was pretty much something that is done away with,” said Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax. “You’re saying it still exists?”
Reeves said that some departments within the state continue to have ticket quotas.
“We just want to put an end to it,” Reeves said.
SB327 now moves to the House for further consideration.
The House version, HB750, has advanced from the House Public Safety Committee to the chamber floor.
A Maryland House bill also addresses concern about ticket quotas.
Delegate Robin Grammer, R-Baltimore, would prohibit using quotas for promotion, demotion, dismissal and transfer of an officer.
Law enforcement agencies would be forbidden from requesting or directing an officer to issue more citations or arrests.
HB666 is in the House Judiciary Committee.
For the third year in a row, one Mississippi lawmaker is pursuing legislation to prohibit any law enforcement agency from establishing a policy that requires officers to meet a ticket quota.
A year ago, House lawmakers voted in favor of the pursuit. The bill died in the Senate.
Hopeful that this year will be different, Rep. Rickey Thompson, D-Shannon, has introduced a bill to 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, HB802, is in the House Judiciary Division B Committee.
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 would also be forbidden from providing incentives or rewards for issuing traffic tickets.
The bill, HB129, is in the House State Government Committee.
Elsewhere, bills in six states are carried over from the 2021 regular session.
An Illinois House bill 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.
State, county and municipal police departments are allowed to continue to use officer contacts as an evaluative tool. The exercise covers any instance where an officer makes contact with someone.
Sponsored by Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, HB3055 would prohibit municipalities from using points systems, 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.”
Since 2010, Michigan law has prohibited a police officer from being required to issue a certain number of citations for traffic offenses.
According to a legislative analysis at the time, even though police departments were generally prohibited from requiring officers to write a specified number of tickets, there were reports about departments that engaged in related practices. Examples included offering prizes to the officer who writes the most tickets in a time period or withholding promotions from officers who issue few tickets.
The 2010 law attempted to address concerns about abuse. However, an exception provided in the law authorizes ticket numbers to be used as part of a police officer’s evaluation system.
The lone requirement for inclusion of the ticket writing component is that the issuance of citations is not given any greater consideration than any other factor in the evaluation of an officer’s performance.
Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, is behind a bill to revise statute to prohibit a police officer’s performance evaluation from including any consideration of citations issued.
The bill, SB599, is in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
Multiple bills in the Minnesota Legislature address concerns about ticket quotas and policing for profit.
Minnesota law forbids law enforcement agencies from implementing an order, mandate, requirement or suggestion to an officer, a citation quota.
HF244/SF313 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.
Similarly, HF2543/SF3423 would prohibit the use of certain traffic-stop related information from being used as criteria to evaluate an officer’s job performance.
In New York, an Assembly bill also covers the issue.
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.
The bill, AB1187, would outlaw state agencies from imposing or suggesting any enforcement quota. Agencies would be forbidden from using ticketing numbers as the primary criteria to evaluate officers.
Ticketing numbers could not be used to reward performance nor be used to transfer, reassign, dismiss, or deny a promotion.
One Ohio House bill would forbid any law enforcement agency from establishing a quota.
HB307 would outlaw an arrest or citation mandate used to evaluate, promote, compensate, transfer or discipline an officer. No requirement or suggestion could be made for an officer to meet a quota, nor could a benefit be offered to an officer based on the officer’s quota.
Additionally, the state’s attorney general would be required to establish a form for officers to use to anonymously report the use of quotas.
An Oklahoma Senate bill targets ticket quotas.
State law prohibits cities and towns from generating more than half of their revenue through traffic fines.
Sponsored by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, SB346 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,” Dahm said in previous remarks. “These practices prohibit our law enforcement officers from effectively doing their jobs.”
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, HB134 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. LL
More state trends
Keith Goble, the 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.