Police Quotas: to Protect and to Serve?

Watch your speed; it’s the end of the month

If you’ve heard this phrase before, you know that it refers to the monthly police quota for traffic tickets. Police quotas, though thought to be beneficial to civilian safety, have had negative effects on both police officers and citizens.

While no one is encouraging reckless driving, it is important to know the consequences quotas can have on our society.

According to npr.com (National Public Radio), NYPD Officer Adhyl Polanco has come forward with allegations of quotas set in place for their department.

“The culture is, you’re not working unless you are writing summonses or arresting people,” Polanco said.

Polanco stated that their quota is 20 and one — 20 tickets and one arrest.

Determined to expose the alleged quota system, he secretly recorded conversations inside his police station in the Bronx. A man, who Polanco identifies as a sergeant, encouraged officers to get their numbers up, and threatened that the quotas would be even higher if they did not.

“Next week, it could be 25 and one. It could be 35 and one … Until you decide you’re going to quit this job and become a Pizza Hut delivery man, this is what you’re going to be doing until then,” the man said.

Now, Polanco is suing the NYPD. He is filing one of several lawsuits over alleged quotas at the department.

While arrest and ticket quotas are illegal in some states, like New York, Illinois, California and Florida, former law enforcement will admit they exist.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, says he strongly believes some of the 18,000 police departments across the country have quotas.

“On the one hand, there is an understandable desire to have productivity from your officers,” Wexler said. “But telling them that you want to arrest x number of people, you have to cite x number of people, it just encourages bad performance on the part of officers.”

One of the drawbacks of quotas, critics believe, is that some officers view the communities they’re policing as a source of revenue. According to the Justice Department, this has happened in Ferguson, MO. The largely white police force there generated millions of dollars in tickets from black residents every year. This, critics say, creates distrust between the public and the police.

In Ohio, police quotas are still technically legal. According to slaterzurz.com, legislative records show that the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill in June 1999 concerning prohibition of ticket quotas which would have become part of the Ohio Revised Code (Law). The bill, however, failed to pass in the Senate and never became a law in Ohio.

With current issues of police brutality and sexual assault, enough distrust between the people and our police already exists. Setting quotas only encourages more public distrust of law enforcement, bad arrests and the mistreatment of our officers. Arrests should only be made to protect — not to generate revenue — and the quality of arrests should be the only form of evaluation of our officers — not the number of arrests.