Utah law forbids ticket quotas

April 2, 2018

Keith Goble


Legislators in states around the country are pursuing action that is intended to put an end to police going on ticket-writing sprees.

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

A new law in Utah addresses concern about state and local departments setting quotas for traffic citations.

Gov. Gary Herbert has signed into law a bill barring 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.

Officers are permitted to collect “useful data” while still prohibiting the requirement of ticket quotas being imposed by superiors.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said more and more states are taking action to quell quotas.

“They realize to have policing for cash is not appropriate,” Stephenson said during Senate discussion on the bill. “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.”

Critics said the bill is an “an overreach” by the state. Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, added that police officers should not be discouraged from making traffic stops.

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

Advocates say the change will help remove a wall between law enforcement and citizens. They say practices that include quotas create an “us-against-them” mindset for the public.

Previously SB154, the new law takes effect in May.

Other states to pursue action on the issue include the following:

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 fiscal and public safety implications.

One Illinois bill would expand the reach of a 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.

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.