Ticket Quotas and The Auto Insurance Kickback
Beginning in 1999, Tampa police officers suddenly became ubiquitous in writing traffic tickets and running speed traps. Something had happened. I searched for many years and ultimately found the reason why. Florida law was amended in March 1999 to allow police officers to personally profit from increasing drivers’ auto insurance rates in their municipality. Police administrators, who understand the impact of auto insurance increases on their own pension benefits, can enact ticket quotas that guarantee auto insurance increases, which increase police pension benefits.
In Florida, a tax on automobile insurance is collected for each municipality and is the State’s contribution to the municipality’s police pension (called Chapter 185 revenue). One dollar of Chapter 185 revenue received by a municipality’s police pension represents about $125 paid in automobile insurance premiums by municipality residents.
In 1999, Florida law was amended such that the auto insurance tax (Chapter 185 revenue) collected annually, which is in excess of the municipality’s 1997 collections, must be used for “extra” police pension benefits. In other words, Florida law rewards police officers with “extra” pension benefits for increasing drivers’ automobile insurance rates, which is easily accomplished through traffic ticket quotas. Unfortunately for Tampa residents, in addition to large auto insurance increases, ticket quotas resulted in fraud and did not reduce crashes. My 2004 federal lawsuit explained the conflict of interest as follows.
Fla. Stat. §185.07 and 185.08 et seq requires a 0.85-percent excise tax on casualty insurance premiums from policies issued in a municipality with the funds accruing to the municipality’s police pension fund. Fla. Stat. §185.35 et seq stipulate that premium tax revenues “shall in all cases be used in its entirety to provide extra benefits to police officers,” and that any amount exceeding the premium tax revenues received for calendar year 1997 “shall be used to provide extra benefits.” Thus, the Tampa police have a direct financial incentive to increase insurance rates in order to receive “extra benefits.”
Tampa police administrators used at least three ticket quotas to increase auto insurance rates, which are described below. By 2005, Tampa police had tripled or quadrupled the number of tickets, writing 142,000 tickets annually, costing Tampa’s 320,000 residents an extra half billion dollars in auto insurance premiums over just five years. Tampa’s annual ticket rate was about one ticket per every two licensed drivers.
The Ticket-at-Every-Crash Policy, Regardless of Probable Cause – Tampa police required a ticket at every crash investigation, regardless of whether the officer concluded probable cause existed to issue a ticket. Officers were trained that insurance companies paid the police to identify and ticket an at-fault driver (meaning who should pay damages), and supervisors enforced the policy. Then, a crash report is written, which is false when probable cause for a ticket is lacking, and is submitted as “secret” (ex parte) evidence to traffic court for the judge’s perusal only, instead of the officer attending. The report will discredit the statements of ticketed drivers, when it is false, advancing convictions, fines, fees, and auto insurance increases.
Adding a Second Traffic Squad, Which Has a Daily Ticket Quota – In 1999, the Tampa Police Department added a second traffic squad, which had the expectation of writing 15 to 20 moving violation tickets per officer, per day.
Annually Evaluating Patrol Officers on Achieving the Moving Violation Ticket Quota – The Tampa police began evaluating patrol officers based on the number of moving violation tickets issued annually, relative to the average, and stragglers were placed in a remedial program that monitored their tickets quarterly.