Police Arrest and Ticket Quotas in Virginia

For years Virginia citizens have felt that officers write more tickets at the end of each month to meet perceived arrest and ticket quotas. in July 2014 a former officer with the Chesterfield Police Department revealed a clear quota system requiring each officer to write "two-three" traffic stops and one arrest each working day. The former officer said he resigned after he was denied a one percent raise for not making enough traffic stops and arrests. In 2012, in response to a Washington Post article Arlington County police acknowledged a pattern of internal memos that direct officers to make a minimum number of arrests and issue a certain number of traffic citations each month.

Quotas Still Legal in Virginia

While such quotas are illegal in many states quota policies are legal in Virginia. Legal or not, quota systems are awful for police departments. With quotas policemen are pressured to meet certain goals and end up stopping people unnecessarily. Many quota jurisdictions have found that officers' preoccupation with satisfying quota requirements leads to delayed response times for emergency calls. Officers in quota departments become revenue generators rather than public servants. Officers in quota departments must target ticket and crime areas. Therefore they choose to operate speed traps rather than patrol school zones or neighborhoods, where they could make a much bigger impact on safety. Ultimately quotas are unsound because they erode public confidence in police discretion and objectivity.

Quotas are not just unfair to the people arrested. They also create unfair working conditions for police officers as well. Many lawsuits have arisen in which officers have sued their own departments alleging that quotas have unfairly been used to discipline or pass over qualified officers seeking promotion. In 2013, Los Angeles paid $5.9 million to settle lawsuits by 11 LAPD police officers who claimed they were punished for failing to meet or objecting to traffic ticket quotas.

Mandatory Number of Arrests

Police officers shouldn't be made to find a mandatory number of people to arrest or issue summonses to. An officer's job is to protect people, not to harass them. For example a police officer working a night shift in a large rural county like Chesterfield faces an extraordinary amount of pressure to go out and look for someone to arrest.

Virginia localities recognize that police quotas are universally condemned. However, rather than stop the practice, some jurisdictions have imposed mandated performance standards. These locations avoid the word "quota" but still require officers to make specific numbers of traffic stops or arrests.

When the Arlington quota issue came to light, a reporter found internal memos requiring radar officers to write 5 tickets per hour. The Arlington police chief claimed that the memos did not amount to a quota system but fortunately recognized that they could be interpreted that way. He called quotas "professionally unsound" and has since directed his staff not to issue quotas or anything resembling them.

In contrast, when the Chesterfield Storybrook county officials reacted in a disappointing and confusing fashion. Officials defended the policy. A department spokesperson implied that quotas were a necessary tool for officer evaluation.

That position is ludicrous. The NYPD is the biggest police force in the country, with over 34,000 uniformed officers and 51,000 employees overall. When confronted with quota allegations concerning the city's controversial stop and frisk policy, New York City's police commissioner outlined a new approach to crime fighting that takes attention off the quantity of arrests and leaves city cops far less open to charges of quota-based policing. The commissioner said "I want to focus on the quality of police actions, with less emphasis on our numbers and more emphasis on our actual impact,"

How Can Hiring a Criminal Attorney Help

If a department like New York can operate without quotas then clearly a department the size of Chesterfield (439 officers) can manage its employees without rigid performance numbers. Reliance on these figures reflects a lazy way to compare employees. Law enforcement officers should have discretion on when and where to issue traffic citations and not be forced to ticket motorists to satisfy a quota system. Sometimes a good officer issues a warning.

In the end, quotas are a real part of the Virginia legal system. If an officer is at the end of a month and his quota figures are down there is a temptation for him to just start writing tickets without any thought to what's going to change behavior. Good lawyers know which jurisdictions have quotas. This information is useful to address questionable police arrests, searches and seizures. Contact Attorney Vaughan Jones today if you would like to prove an unjustified arrest or traffic ticket.

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