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8/28/2012Florida: Website Fights Back Against Ticket Quota
Documents put online confirming the use of traffic ticket quotas to boost police pension payments in Tampa, Florida.
A college professor has turned to the Internet to make her case against ticket quotas in Tampa, Florida. Barbara Orban, who teaches graduate courses in public health a the University of South Florida, set up Highway Robbery Tampa last week to detail her allegations against city officials built up over the course of more than a decade of research.
"Since I contend that certain police officials, attorneys and judges were untruthful or violated laws, my website is essential in providing supporting documentation to affirm my statements," Orban told TheNewspaper.
The photo enforcement industry has sent out talking points that mention a minor rear-end collision involving Orban from March 2000 and her subsequent lawsuit against the city of Tampa. By leaving out crucial details, the industry hopes to discredit her work in peer-reviewed journals critical of red light cameras. The new website provides a wide array of documents explaining the case allowing readers to judge for themselves. Orban's primary accusation is that a 1999 Florida law put local police in the position of personally profiting from writing traffic tickets because their pensions were being funded by a tax on automobile insurance. Writing a ticket that increased insurance rates resulted in greater contributions to the pension fund.
Orban's first-hand experience led to the discovery that, to maximize the return on this law, officers responding to the scene of a traffic accident must, regardless of the circumstances, write a ticket.
"The Field Training and Evaluation Program taught recruits that discretion does not exist in whether or not to write a traffic citation as traffic citations are always required as part of crash investigations," former Tampa Police Sergeant Peter Pomponio said in a deposition provided on the site. "In addition, Tampa police policy requires that if the officer believes a citation should not be written in a crash investigation, the officer must obtain approval from their supervisor to not write a citation. Frequently, officers investigate crashes and do not perceive a traffic law violation or do not know who violated a traffic law."
Pomponio went on to explain that officers who could not back up the ticket would simply not testify in court, instead asking the judge to make his decision based solely on the written report. In addition, Tampa also put in place an actual, numerical quota for citations.
"During the summer of 2004, I was advised that each officer should write 80 hazardous moving violation citations, unrelated to crash investigations, in order to achieve a 'meets expectation' in traffic law enforcement on their annual evaluation," Pomponio testified. "The previous standard had been approximately 52 such citations."
As a result of Orban's lawsuit, Tampa partially abandoned the ticket quota in 2008, causing a decline in the number of citations issued. A new method of ticketing arrived a few years later to boost the city's numbers.
"In 2011, with a new mayor and city council members, the Tampa Police Department's camera program was approved and they now issue more tickets than ever, having the most profitable camera program in Florida, consistent with their 'policing for profit' business model," Orban said.
Orban used tax receipts to estimate that motorists paid an additional $1 billion in insurance premiums between 2000 and 2009. This put an extra $8 million in the pockets of officers in the form of pension contributions that they would otherwise have had to make from their own pocket. Orban is now calling for an audit of the pension funds.
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