Traffic tickets: the truth will surprise you
From: Retired Arizona State Police:
Did you know that police departments are partially funded by their own ticketing program? In case you haven’t been paying close attention to the news, we are in the worst economic shape since the depression. Included in this recession are state and local governments looking for ways to cut spending. One of the suggested ways is job reduction and demotion. The police are part of the local government and being on this train is no exception to the rule. They have faced budget cuts and are also looking to fire agents as a result of the budget cuts.
It should come as no surprise that one way to counter layoffs is to generate more revenue for departments. The departments looked for new ways to generate income, but the tried and true method for the departments has been appointments. This is a billion dollar industry across the country and it has nothing to do with public safety. Sure, dating deters some behaviors, but that can be accomplished by other means. Driver education and safety programs might solve some of the safety problems, but that won’t bring the money as quick cash out of the public’s pockets. This comes from the public’s wallet and easily becomes instant asset generation.
Police officers have what is called “officer discretion.” Officer discretion means that an officer has the right to enforce the spirit of the law or the letter of the law using his discretion. Traffic law enforcement should be left to the discretion of the law enforcement officer, but the officer’s discretion is being taken away. Their respective agencies are telling other officers to write more fines so squad averages can be achieved. You see, a quota was once called which is now called squad averages. As a former Arizona State Trooper for 20 years, we were told to keep our weekly averages or we would be scored for poor performance. They would compare us to the rest of the team and our weekly performance reviews were compared to the rest of the team. The commander would set the weekly ticket quota to an acceptable number and the officer would be required to write that number of tickets. In my particular squad, we had to stop 40 cars per week and write a minimum of 20 fines. If you wrote under 20 tickets, you will be flagged with a red flag on your weekly performance review. There would be a note in red in the evaluation to speed up the pace because its performance is poor. If he continued to receive poor evaluations, the next step would be parole. They would put you on a six-month probationary period that could result in dismissal. If you didn’t start writing 20 tickets a week, you’d be fired for poor performance. Oh yes, the officers would also have to take the required emergency calls in the performance of their duties, in addition to filling their quota.
Has it come to you yet? Did you see anywhere that “public safety” was the main concern for issuing more fines? Of course you didn’t see it. Nowhere was any officer mentioned that the reason we issue tickets is for public safety. We were going to be ticket writing bots and we had absolutely no discretion from officials when it came to ticket writing ratios. You see, I would personally write 5 tickets a week from 40 stops and was told multiple times that this was unacceptable. They gave us written warning books, but sometimes that was taken away from us, leaving the individual officer only the option to write public fines. He believed that giving Citizen Joe a warning instead of writing a ticket would increase public safety and improve community relations. I like to help people and educate them about road safety as well. To further remove the discretion of the police, patrol cars and officers were connected to record the traffic encounter.
They told us it was to protect us and in some cases it did. But the main untold reason was to give the older brother more ways to monitor our performance.
As you see, less officer discretion and strained police budgets result in increased revenue generation from fines. It comes under the guise of public safety, but it doesn’t really save lives. This does not include court participation, which also depends on the generation of income from fines. Why do you think there is a traffic court? Streamline income generation. The point I am trying to make is that sometimes it is not the fault of the officer who writes a traffic ticket to the public. The public must be on guard and drive safely. They should not depend on the security guards to keep us safe, but on themselves to drive safely and avoid fines. In addition, the police should have more discretion in the application of the law and not be imposed by budgetary restrictions that result in a higher rate of fines.
Traffic law must be enforced with the absolute discretion of the officers and no quota should dictate the performance of the officers. Who watches the police to make sure that citizens are not subject to this type of law enforcement. There are some internal affairs investigations, but generally good officers are burned out by this. Civil review boards are good, but they don’t have the training or the background to really evaluate an officer’s performance.
These aforementioned issues won’t be solved anytime soon, so what should the public do to defend themselves? Learn about traffic laws and criminal laws. This does not mean that you have to obtain a law degree or something similar. It means knowing your rights as a citizen! Read civil rights magazines and police bulletins at your public library. Ask the local police for help if you have any questions about your particular situation. Most good officers would love to share their knowledge with you, as I have with many others. Lastly, look for books that specifically cover traffic law enforcement and how to overcome traffic tickets. There are a lot of them, but I have found an excellent one that covers many areas of speeding and other moving infractions. You see, knowledge brings the balance of power back to the public. Don’t be left unprotected on this day of bad economic times. You will fall prey to budget-minded police departments and courts that depend on your hard-earned money to get them out of the hole.
May God bless and enlighten you so that you seek the way, the truth and bring happiness to your life. Regain control and power in your life and never accept what is unacceptable!
Retired State Soldier,