Ticket Quota #3

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.

A newspaper reported that in 1999 Tampa police administrators began informing patrol officers, in one of Tampa’s two police districts, of the average number of “self-initiated” (non-crash) moving violation tickets written per officer.  By 2000, the average had doubled just by circulating the average.  Then, in 2000, police administrators began evaluating officers (in annual performance evaluations) on the number of “self-initiated” moving violation tickets written, relative to the average.  Officers who were below average were rated “Below Expectation” (BE) in Traffic Law Enforcement (TLE) and told to increase moving violation tickets, regardless of the officer’s other achievements or the number of tickets written in crash investigations.  This creates a continuously increasing average, as “below average” officers are pressured to achieve the average, which increases the average.  Stragglers were placed in a remedial program where their tickets were monitored quarterly.

Tampa patrol officers explained why they disagreed with the quota.  Patrol officers respond to calls for assistance and drive marked vehicles that deter traffic infractions.  To write tickets, they must stop responding to calls and hide somewhere – awaiting a traffic infraction.  Many officers do not regard this as the best use of their time, and prefer to respond to calls, to find wanted criminals, or to be highly visible in problem locations to deter crime and/or traffic violations.  Also, quotas are most easily met by ticketing drivers for minor, technical infractions that are unrelated to safety, such as when drivers stop on the white stop bar at an intersection rather than behind the stop bar.  Many claimed they prefer to make traffic stops over such minor infractions, to educate drivers, without the expense of a traffic ticket.  Further, Tampa has traffic squads that focus on traffic problems.  Evaluations of Tampa officers reveal that patrol officers who were top rated in addressing crime and finding criminals were rated low in traffic law enforcement because they did not spend enough time hiding to write moving violation tickets.