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 often face disciplinary action at work.
The reliance on ticket quotas to ensure a certain amount of revenue for the department, city and/or county varies per department. A cop I know told me that their particular 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.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation justifies costly overtime at certain times of the year by getting their traffic cops to issue as many citations as possible. On a typical 4-hour overtime shift, they demand at least 8 tickets per hour, or a total of 32 citations.
To most of us, this isn’t all that shocking. Most police are outraged by such allegations, because they make it look like their ticketing policies are all about the money. That’s because they are all about the money.
Larry Randolph is a 24-year veteran of the LADOT. He retired in February, and since then, he’s been sort of a whistleblower on their ticket quotas. LA Weekly reported:
Confirming his allegations to L.A. Weekly, he broke it down like this:
During regular shifts officers with the Parking Enforcement branch of the L.A. Department of Transportation usually are expected to issue 20 tickets in an eight-hour shift, although the word “quota” is not used, he said.
However, he says, at certain times of the year, when LADOT is allegedly looking to eat up its allocated budget because of a use-it-or-lose-it system, costly overtime is instituted, and officers are expected to write a certain number of tickets to help justify that overtime.
“When they’re paying you time-and-a-half, they want to see a minimum of eight tickets,” Randolph told us.
The magic number is 32 tickets in a four-hour overtime shift, Randolph contends. The overtime quotas happen the most at the end of the calendar year, in December, and at the end of the fiscal year, in May and June, he said.
And, in order to carry that off — it’s not easy finding so many violators — officers resort to writing up what he describes as borderline violations: a bumper barely hanging over a red curb, being legally close to a time expiration, parking in a forbidden zone that’s not at all clearly marked.
If officers working overtime don’t bring in the citations, they won’t immediately get more overtime, Randolph said. And overtime adds up. As City Controller’s data shows, there are traffic officers making six-figure salaries even though their base pay is nowhere near that.
They’ve got a financial incentive to write as many tickets as possible, whether the tickets are justified or not. They depend on most people just paying the fine, and no one really gets in trouble for writing bogus tickets. No wonder they don’t like this Randolph guy.