11/27/2007Washington State Police Use Ticket Quotas
Quotas boost the number of traffic tickets issued by the Washington State Patrol.
Officials with the Washington State Patrol set numeric goals that encourage state police officers to issue as many traffic citations as possible. The effect has been a significant increase in the number of tickets written -- 50,000 additional tickets were issued between 2005 and 2006. The boost came as the percentage of motorists who received tickets instead of warnings jumped from 43 percent in 2004 to 63 percent in 2006.
"We did ask our troopers to be a little less tolerant," Assistant State Patrol Chief Brian Ursino told KING-TV. "There isn't any quotas but there is accountability."
A Bellvue state patrol sergeant issued a memo ordering troopers to meet the accountability goals, writing: "No matter how many cars you stop, the goal... is 80 percent enforcement (tickets)."
Those failing to meet the goal may lose vacation time or receive other sanctions. KING-TV cited a March memo that suggested troopers who stopped 1200 drivers and issued at least 660 traffic tickets would receive a commendation -- essential for officers seeking to increase their pay through promotions.
Legislators including state Representative Shirley Hankins (R-Richland) have called for an end to ticket quotas, but the state patrol has a powerful ally. Former Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee Chairman Al O'Brien (D-Mountlake Terrace) spent 29 years working as a Seattle Police sergeant. O'Brien now chairs the Public Safety Committee and refuses to hold a hearing on any ticket quota bill.
Ticket quotas are nothing new for the Washington State Police. In 2002, a public records request by the Washington Seatbelt Coalition uncovered a confidential "Traffic Safety Blitz" memo urging a specific number of tickets issued each hour.
"During the emphasis, officers shall contact a minimum of three (3) violators per working hour with the desired outcome of 3 occupant protection/speed infractions per hour," Deputy State Patrol Chief Lowell M. Porter wrote. "Officers failing to meet the minimum requirement may be replaced."