Are police under pressure to write more tickets?

Posted at 8:18 AM, Jan 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-30 23:45:16-05

RICHMOND,  Va. -- Del. Delores McQuinn (D-70th) wants the Virginia Crime Commission to study the use arrest or ticket mandates by law enforcement departments in the state of Virginia.

Ticket quotas are against the law in several states, including Illinois, California, New York and Florida, but not Virginia.

Del. McQuinn introduced legislation (HJ 513) that requested the Commission study the issue after a CBS 6 investigation uncovered the performance plan for a former officer with the Chesterfield Police Department that encouraged him to make 2-3 traffic stops per day, and one arrest per day.

When questioned about the numbers, 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…It’s a performance standard," Lt. Colonel Dan Kelly said back in July 2014.

Lt. Kelly said the department comes 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.

Melissa Hipolit questions Chesterfield Police Lt. Col. Dan Kelly in 2014.

Melissa Hipolit questions Chesterfield Police Lt. Col. Dan Kelly in 2014.

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

Still, the numbers concerned  McQuinn enough that she introduced legislation that would ban ticket quotas in the commonwealth.

But, she said a visit from members of several law enforcement agencies changed her mind.

“Based on the conversation I had I determined that this might not be necessarily what was going on,” McQuinn said.

McQuinn opted to pull her original bill, and, instead, introduced legislation that asks the Virginia Crime Commission to study whether officers are being pressured to write more tickets.

“We need to come up with information and stats to address this particular issue,” McQuinn said.

CBS 6 talked to the head of the association that represents Virginia’s police chiefs to find out why she feels a ticket quota ban is unnecessary.

“We recognize that having a minimum quota, as it’s called on writing tickets, is something that is not constitutional, and it’s also not a recommended law enforcement practice,” Dana Schrad, the Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said.

Schrad said she does not believe Chesterfield County has a quota system in place.

“If they have put anything in their policy that leads people to believe they have a quota system, I believe that is incorrect with the way they actually do their traffic enforcement,” Schrad said.

Schrad said, yes, departments do track the number of tickets officers are writing, but that is just one part of how officers are evaluated.

In addition, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles takes into account the number of tickets written, along with other factors, when deciding whether to give local departments lucrative highway safety grants.

Those grants can total hundreds-of-thousands –of-dollars that officers use on programs designed to combat drunk driving, and reduce the number of crashes.

The departments have to report citation numbers on their grant progress reports, but there is no mandatory minimum and Schrad said that does not put pressure on departments to write more tickets.

“No, there’s no pressure being put on them at all, because once again, there is no minimums required by any of the grants, no one is enforcing a quota through grants or policy,” Schrad said.



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