Chesterfield boss advised not to say ‘quota’ in interview about police tickets

Posted at 3:00 PM, Sep 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-09 18:20:33-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- For the first time in his life, Chesterfield resident James Ballard became angry enough to fire off an email to his county representative.

"I hope this doesn't currently reflect the policy of the Chesterfield County Police Department,” Ballard wrote in the email after he saw a CBS 6 investigation into the county's traffic stop and arrest mandates.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "I can't see the quota system as being needed to get law enforcement accomplished."

The investigation uncovered a former police officer’s work performance plan. It showed the following requirements:

  • Two to three traffic stops per day
  • One arrest per day
  • Failure to meet those expectations would lead to disciplinary action

When questioned about the performance plan, the second in command at Chesterfield Police defended the practice.

"Would you call this a quota system?"CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit asked.

"Absolutely not," Chesterfield Police Lieutenant Colonel Dan Kelly replied. "It's a performance standard."

Kelly said the department came up with the benchmarks after an in-depth review of all traffic stop and arrest numbers from the previous year. Last year's averages become this year's mandate.

"I don't sit behind my desk and arbitrarily come up with some number of a performance standards that I think our officers should meet," Lt. Col. Kelly said. "They are held accountable to what their peers do."

In the nearly two months since our report first aired, we have learned the department has continued to use that evaluation system and there are no plans to change the practice,  even though similar systems have been banned in other states, like Illinois.

Also, we have learned several county residents, like Ballard, have reached out to county leadership with their concerns. One of those leaders is Virginia State Delegate Delores McQuinn. She represents parts of Chesterfield County in the General Assembly. Del. McQuinn said she wanted to see the practice stopped -- immediately.

"There have been quite a few emails as well as telephone calls," Del. McQuinn said.

She said she started working to draft a bill that would make sure officers were evaluated fairly in the Commonwealth.

"Much of the legislation that is brought to the forefront is because somebody has brought something to our attention, and that's exactly what you all have done," she said.

The lawmaker's action has not completely satisfied Ballard. He said he wanted to hear what county leaders thought about the system.

"I want a truthful response. Is this the way police officers are evaluated in Chesterfield County?" he said. "What are they trying to accomplish by doing it using a quota system?"

Chesterfield County County Administrator Jay Stegmaier and Chesterfield Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Holland have both denied requests for an on-camera interview on the subject.

However, a public information request uncovered details about some behind-the-scenes discussions on the matter.

In an email sent to Stegmaier by Chesterfield Director of Public Affairs Susan Pollard, Pollard advised Stegmaier about how to address the topic during an upcoming newspaper interview.

In the email, she tells him:

"If you really get pushed on quota versus benchmark then use this. DON’T SAY QUOTA OR BENCHMARK EVEN REPEATING HIS WORDS."

Quota 01

In another email exchange between Jim Holland and a Chesterfield resident, the resident wrote he doesn’t have a "hard and fast" opinion about the "arrest quotas."

"The problem in my book is that the police are not giving out enough tickets, not too many," the resident wrote.

"I’m in agreement with you," Holland responded.

Ballard said he wondered  if law-abiding Chesterfield drivers could be unfairly pulled over and ticketed just because officers wanted to avoided getting in trouble.

"He's there to enforce the law as it's there to be enforced, not to meet a quota and get a performance rating based on a quota you're told you need to meet," Ballard said.

While Chesterfield County Police Chief Colonel Thierry Dupuis denied our request for an on camera interview, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police confirmed performance standards and ticket quotas are definitely a topic up for discussion when its legislative committee meets this fall.

A public information request revealed the association and Chesterfield Police are reviewing laws in other states on the matter.

"In case the association is forced to compromise on a piece of legislation,” the Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Dana Schrad wrote in an email on the subject.