(WHNT) — We’ve all been there – blue lights flashing in the rearview, white-knuckling the steering wheel, wondering if we’ll be able to validate a led foot.
“Got a quota to meet, huh, officer?”
Law enforcement officials hear it all the time. But what used to be a running joke is something agencies across the country find themselves battling every day. Misconceptions also imply speed traps are set to try to squeeze more money out of residents to benefit the department.
However, speeding tickets or traffic citation “quotas” have actually been prohibited or banned in some states, with the threat of penalties if a quota is enforced in other areas.
There are now more than 20 states across the country, including Alabama, that have made efforts to discourage traditions that pressure law enforcement to meet “ticket quotas”:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
For smaller communities, the National Motorists Association argues that “a speed trap exists wherever traffic enforcement is focused on extracting revenue from drivers instead of improving safety.”
Yet, the funds from tickets aren’t divvied up as you might expect. In fact, law enforcement agencies get very little from tickets that are issued, with a majority of the money going straight into city and state funds.
There are even a few surprising areas the money goes; like the DNA Database Fund and the Crime Victims Compensation Fund. Of course, every agency, municipality and state will vary. So if you’re curious, it’s as easy as requesting a breakdown from your local clerk’s office.
As for the Tennessee Valley, here’s what local agencies confirmed with News 19 on the controversial topic:
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Trooper Brandon Bailey:
“You know, we work these crashes and see the result of not wearing a seatbelt or speeding, etc. And we take it personally. These types of wrecks are absolutely preventable, that’s why we’re so ambitious in stopping drivers, it’s out of care and prevention.”
“We do not have any type of quotas on tickets/warnings or arrests,” explained Tuscumbia Police Dept. Chief Tony Logan. “The only thing we ask, not to require, is that our officers try to have two contacts per 12-hour shift other than dispatched calls. That can be a walk-through at any of the schools/daycares in Tuscumbia. It can be simply talking to a business owner/operator, a resident outside working in their yard or someone walking at the athletic track for exercise. The main goal is to further improve our relationship with our community.”
“We don’t have quotas at [the] Rainsville Police Department,” said Rainsville Assistant Police Chief Matt Crum. “However, Traffic Enforcement is a necessity. We have one of the busiest intersections in the county (AL75 and AL35) where thousands upon thousands of vehicles pass [through] every single day. Our officers do an excellent job of enforcing traffic laws, but Rainsville really doesn’t write that many tickets. Most violations are corrected through education and instruction. Often you can see a direct correlation between traffic accidents and lower Traffic Enforcement, meaning less enforcement [and] more wrecks.”
“The Sheriff’s office has no policy (expressed, written, or implied) telling deputies that they must write tickets on traffic stops,” replied Sgt. Kyle Palmer with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. “We do not require deputies to write any certain number of tickets, nor do we have a quota on speeding or any other traffic infractions.”
Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett:
“We do not have any type of quotas, but traffic enforcement is part of our jobs,” explained Hargett. “We do expect officers to enforce traffic law during their daily duties, but we don’t make them do a certain amount. We also participate in the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program, which is a grant from the state. When officers work this grant, traffic is the primary function. We still do not have a quota as far as writing tickets. They just have to show they are enforcing the traffic laws, which can be written citations, warnings or verbal warnings.”
“We do not have a quota,” said Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips. “We really don’t write a lot of tickets. It’s hard to work traffic because we have so many court papers to serve and warrants.”
“It is total deputy discretion,” added Rocky Harnen with the Sheriff’s Office. “Based on seriousness, area (school zones) and the attitude of the driver.”
“Our ticket quota is right in line with our donut quota. Every ticket, we get a donut,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Joe Hamilton joked. “Seriously, we do not have a quota on tickets and it is my understanding that having such a quota is illegal.”
“We do not have a quota. It’s pretty much, ‘if you’re nice to us, we’re nice to you,'” said Florence Police Department’s Officer Chad Breedwell.” If we’re pulling you over for something blatant, you’re more than likely to get a ticket. But if it’s something minor, then it’s more of a contact-driven situation. Treat us nice and we’ll do the same.”
“We do not have a quota,” said Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Covington.
“No, we don’t have ticket quotas,” said Limestone County Sheriff Joshua McLaughlin. “I’ve always heard this myth too, but in my 20-plus years, I have never met an agency that has one.”
The Madison County Sheriff’s Office compiled their data from last year and provided the data from all traffic stops conducted by their deputies:
“The Huntsville Police Department does not have a quota when it comes to traffic citations,” added Sgt. Rosalind White. “Our enforcement of traffic violations is to educate the public on roadway safety and reduce traffic crashes in areas that have had a relatively high number of traffic crashes. Based on statistical data, we take a proactive approach to traffic enforcement measures in high accident locations. This is often done by high-visibility saturation patrols or high-volume traffic stops in targeted areas.”
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“No ma’am, we do not have a ticket quota,” said Chief Deputy Willie Orr with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office. “There is a great deal of discretion in law enforcement, and, when possible, we allow our deputies to make decisions as to whether or not to take enforcement action.”
“Some of the most common complaints we hear from citizens involve traffic violations,” described Albertville Assistant Police Chief John Amos. “Our Patrol Officers work hard to address those complaints by conducting traffic enforcement – in addition to the many other duties they have. Our Department does encourage Officers to enforce traffic laws in an effort to promote overall safety on the roadways. With that said, our Department does not have a “quota” regarding the number of traffic citations our Officers must issue. Officers have discretion whether to issue either a Citation or a Written Warning for traffic violations they encounter.”
“No ma’am we do not have speeding ticket quotas,” said Priceville Police Chief Jerry Holmes. “Hwy 67 [which] runs through our jurisdiction is a dangerous stretch of highway. The speed limit on Hwy 67 in the city limits is 50 mph. We have learned that if we do not monitor that closely, speeders get upwards of 70-80 mph without even thinking about it, which in turn, contributes to traffic accidents. Trust me, it’s all in the name of safety and saving lives.”
“We do not have quotas,” the Decatur Police Department stated.
“The Fayetteville Police Department does not have a quota,” said Administrative Commander Coby Templeton. “We like to see our officers proactive with traffic stops, especially in certain areas of concern. We receive complaints throughout the week of speeders, loud music, truck route violations, or other traffic offenses in various areas of town. We try to patrol these areas aggressively.”
“We are a smaller police department, and our officers must be well-rounded. We do not have the luxury of specialized units. Traffic enforcement is but one of their many tasks. While traffic control is integral to our work, we want to maintain sight of the overall picture. It can be a balancing act. We understand that a heavy presence may deter the criminal mind, but we do not want to appear heavy-handed.”
“We look to change negative behavior in drivers. We recognize that not everyone needs a citation. We understand that people do make mistakes. We encourage our officers to correct minor infractions at the lowest level. Minor offenses may merely warrant a verbal or written warning. There are occasions when the violation is egregious and requires legal action. If the officer realizes, by the individual’s response, that they will not likely change, it may be appropriate to summons the individual to court and allow a judge to decide the best course of action.”
“There is also the matter of policing for profit. The police department is not a means to generate revenue. Certain moral questions and implications are raised in this action. Placing a quota can appear to blur that line. Our goal should be to promote public welfare, peace, and safety.”
All in all, the best advice from all agencies is to follow the golden rule when getting pulled over (and of course, to drive safe).