Bills in four states focus on ticket quotas

February 27, 2018

Keith Goble


Legislators in states around the country are pursuing action to stop police from going on ticket-writing sprees.

About 20 states have acted to discourage practices that pressure law enforcement officers to write tickets.

One bill halfway through the Utah statehouse addresses concern about state and local departments setting quotas for traffic citations.

The Senate voted 23-2 to bar departments from requiring, suggesting, or directing officers to meet an enforcement quota. Efforts to promote, compensate, reward or discipline an officer on the basis of a quota also would be forbidden.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, amended his bill on the Senate floor to permit officers to collect “useful data” while still prohibiting the requirement of ticket quotas being imposed by superiors.

Stephenson said more and more states are taking action to quell quotas.

“They realize to have policing for cash is not appropriate,” Stephenson said during floor discussion. “Based on evidence and testimony given by former police officers who said they were pressured to meet certain arrest and ticket quotas, (the practice) does exist in Utah, and it ought to be prohibited.”

Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, voted against the bill, which he described as “an overreach” by the state. He added that police officers should not be discouraged from making traffic stops.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said the legislation uses “a sledgehammer to kill a fly.” He voiced concern the bill language is too broad.

The bill, SB154, is in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

In Missouri, a House bill would eliminate citation quotas for state or local law enforcement. HB1323 would forbid performance evaluations from comparing the number of citations issued by one officer to the number of citations issued by another officer.

Advocates for the rule refer to tying an officer’s ticket writing activity to his or her performance evaluation as the “dirty little secret” of some police forces. They say the practice turns officers into revenue generating machines.

Officers’ “point of contacts” could still be used for performance evaluations. Contacts include number of traffic stops completed, arrests and written warnings.

Officials with the Independence, Mo., Police Department are on record as critical of the proposed change. The agency has indicated in a previous fiscal analysis that “self-initiated activity including issuing citations is a primary function of patrol officers.”

Others say that prohibiting supervisors to evaluate officers on their levels of self-initiated activity would have both fiscal and public safety implications.

Sponsored by Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, the bill awaits assignment to committee.

One Illinois bill would expand the reach of statute that applies to state, county and municipal police officers.

State law now forbids 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.

An exemption is made for municipalities with their own independent inspector general and law enforcement review authority.

Departments, however, can continue to use officer contacts as an evaluative tool. The practice covers any instance where an officer makes contact with someone.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, SB3509 would remove the exemption for affected municipalities.

The bill is in the Senate Assignments Committee.

Two bills in New York also address concerns about quotas.

The Empire State prohibits an employer from transferring or penalizing a police officer for failure to meet an established ticket quota. Employers, however, could deny a promotion to an officer who fails to meet a quota.

A4021 would prohibit discrimination in promotion of police officers who fail to meet certain ticket quotas. S3548 would specify that violation of existing statute by a department to be a Class A misdemeanor.

The bills are in the respective chamber’s labor committee.

WW Williams

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.