This post originally appeared as NMA E-Newsletter #538 on May 5, 2019.
Editor’s Note: Over the years, the NMA has received occasional contact from law enforcement officers who have complained about department policies, sometimes crafted to avoid direct violation of state anti-ticket-quota laws, which force officers to write a predetermined number of citations during each work shift. The following commentary recently submitted to us by “Officer Frank” is perhaps the most heartfelt and eloquent that we have seen on the topic. These are his words, altered only to protect his identity and location.
My city has a small police department consisting of less than 50 commissioned officers. The population is under 50,000 surrounded by several hundred thousand more within commuting distance. A large portion of low-income minorities lives within the land-locked city limits.
As you read further, you’ll begin to understand why this is important information. Over the past several years, the police administration (due to pressure from the courts and mayor) has placed unwritten rules and conditions on our employment. That is a direct violation of our FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) contract and an officer’s sworn oath to serve and protect. One of those unwritten rules is what they refer to as “required contacts” objectives for all patrol officers.
Contacts are, simply put, traffic stops. Officers are required to perform traffic stops─yes I understand this is part of our job─or face discipline up to termination if goals are not met. Since the quota has been in effect, I have personally resisted by performing traffic stops but only issuing written or verbal warnings.
You see, the quota removes the individual officer’s discretion and forces him into an unethical position of simply generating revenue for the city under threat of losing his job, his livelihood. I worked very hard for many years to become a police officer. I earned an education and strived to meet the standards required for the occupation. During my time in law enforcement, I’ve earned my basic, intermediate, and advanced police certification as well. Yet all the administration cares about is how much money other officers and I make for the city. Many of us feel that the public good that we do is being ripped from us, and our lives are being placed in additional danger over the pursuit of revenue. It’s all about the money; even the mayor has indicated that fact in open city council meetings.
When I started my career years ago, I was one of those kids who was under the illusion I could serve and protect citizens. I thought law enforcement was about helping people. Unfortunately, I’ve been forced to admit to myself that it is simply not the case most of the time. There is a massive problem when a city’s police department spends more time issuing traffic citations (and locking people up for “failure to appear” bench warrants over twenty dollar seat belt violations) than proactively patrolling the neighborhoods.
At my department, issuing traffic tickets is counted as the only meaningful activity during an officer’s yearly performance evaluation. This is insanity as if patrol officers have nothing else to do such as responding to larceny, burglary, sexual assaults, vehicle theft, child abuse, suicides, armed robberies, dismembered bodies, and all sorts of other calls for service.
Officers are routinely subjected to psychological abuse when the prescribed ticketing numbers aren’t met. As you might imagine, morale could not be any lower. Officers young and old want out; the turnover rate is through the roof. The president of our FOP lodge hasn’t taken up this issue on our behalf. In a nutshell, WE HAVE NO ADVOCATE! We have no one to we can turn to other than the media, and that carries risks for one’s career.
I’ve attempted to warn the public when the opportunity presents itself. I don’t know what else to do at this point other than to speak out. I will not engage in the wrongful taxation of the public for revenue. That creates a propensity for corruption, which only a fool would not realize, and yet our administration encourages it. Eventually, it will come down to me retiring or being fired for insubordination. Either way, it’s a shame this goes on in America. This job has caused me to have a genuine distrust for government, in its smallest and largest forms.
For the people’s benefit and the protection of their constitutional freedoms, I wish to God there was more I could do to fight this. Truthfully, it inspires me just knowing I’m sharing this story with someone, anyone who will listen. I want to personally thank the NMA for its efforts in exposing one of the negative uses of law enforcement. Also, so that you know, I’m not the only police officer with this viewpoint. There are thousands and thousands of “Officer Franks” all over this great nation.