Ticket quotas are one of those things that everybody knows exist, but no one is supposed to talk about. You talk to most cops about them, and they’ll deny they even exist. They’ll tell you it’s all a myth. And the few cops that do acknowledge their existence and admit their propensity for abuse end up getting fired.
The reliance on ticket quotas to ensure a certain amount of revenue for the department, city and/or county varies per department. My brother-in-law is a cop, and he told me that their quotas are extremely easy to meet. Something on the order of 10 contacts per month, and that includes warnings. So, if you’re not making those 10 contacts every month, you’re likely not doing much at all.
Other places like the NYPD have much harsher quotas with promotions and bonuses available for the more aggressive cops who consistently meet or exceed the stated quotas. One of the obvious problems with having a quota system is how easy it is, even how necessary it is, to abuse it. Many times, the high quotas are completely unrealistic and unattainable unless cops get creative with what passes as “criminal” or “misdemeanor” behavior. They lower their standards way down until they’re arresting and ticketing people for nothing. But at least that cop will get recognition from his boss and maybe even a dinner-for-two gift card at his favorite steak restaurant.
Paul Pizzuto, a cop in the NYPD, got fired for writing tickets to dead people. But he only did that because he couldn’t meet the quota, even issuing as many as 150 valid tickets per month. His boss wanted more and threatened to transfer him if he didn’t perform better. And since he couldn’t get any more than that, he started issuing tickets to people who had long been dead, and he got fired. After all, dead people don’t pay fines, so what good are they?
Officer Matthews, another NYPD cop, sued the department last year after he got fired, because he believes they retaliated against him for trying to expose their corrupt quota system:
"Central to the quota system are color-coded computer reports that categorize cops by the number of arrests, summonses and stop-and-frisks they carry out. Officers who fail to meet the reports are highlighted in red. Black ink is used to denote cops who are meeting the quotas, while silver is used to identify those who are meeting some quotas, the suit says. Matthews claims that officers who don’t hit their numbers are subjected to a slew of punishments, including undesirable assignments and the loss of overtime."
Recently, an Auburn, Alabama cop was fired for trying to expose the same system. Reason magazine reported:
“Hanners blew the whistle on the department’s tactics and was eventually fired for refusing to comply and keep quiet. He says that each officer was required to make 100 contacts each month, which included tickets, arrests, field interviews, and warnings. This equates to 72,000 contacts a year in a 50,000 person town. His claims are backed up by audio recordings of his superiors he made. The Auburn police department declined requests to be interviewed for this story. ‘There are not that many speeders, there are not that many people running red lights to get those numbers, so what [the police] do is they lower their standards,’ says Hanners. That led to the department encouraging officers to arrest people that Hanners ‘didn’t feel like had broken the law.’”
Hanners told Reason that he “got into law enforcement to serve and protect, not be a bully.” He wasn’t willing to play their money game. He was one of the good guys who took his job seriously, and he got fired for it. What’s left are those who have no problem with ticketing or arresting people who are not really guilty of anything in order to increase their revenue and get recognition from their bosses. No wonder people’s respect for police has plummeted over the past few decades.
I know, I know. Not all cops are bad. It’s just that 99% of them give the rest a bad name.