Are Police Quotas for Traffic Citations Fact or Fiction?

police quotas

Drive slow. It’s the end of the month and the police need to meet their quota.

If you’ve been driving long enough, someone has probably said this to you either directly or in passing.

But is it true? Do police quotas exist? More importantly, are police quotas legal?

Keep reading to find out.

Fact: Police Quotas Are Real

Nobody likes receiving a traffic violation, particularly when it’s for something minor like turning right on a red at 4:55 PM when it’s banned at that intersection until 5 o’clock.

All of a sudden, you’re out $129, your dinner plans are ruined, and you didn’t even do anything that wrong.

The easiest solution to your agitation is to blame the police.

Well, depending on where you’re pulled over, you might be right. Police quotas were and are legal across many states. They’re supported by police departments and state governments for several reasons.

We see quotas as a nuisance and as a way for the police to pester us about minor traffic laws and generate some income for law enforcement.

But the police see it as a way of measuring the performance of their officers. They don’t want officers sitting around or avoiding interacting with the public. Traffic police are there to keep our roads safe. Rather than babysitting them, administrations can set a quota and count tickets, which are a tangible representation of how active the police are.

In fact, they’re so important to governments and law enforcement bodies that the lobby thwarts state legislators’ attempts to ban them.

Arizona’s state legislator did just that, but Arizona governor Doug Ducey vetoed the bill. His decision was supported by the Arizona Police Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and the Arizona Association of Police Chiefs.

Are Ticket Quotas Legal in Florida?

Florida Statues 316.640 7(b) says that “no traffic agency may establish a traffic citation quota.”

Seems straightforward, right? The police can’t hunt citations arbitrarily to meet a quota. But the Florida Highway Patrol allegedly still does it.

Back in 2017, Lt. Col. Mike Thomas, the second highest ranking officer at the Florida Highway Patrol lost his job because whistleblowers caught him encouraging officers in the field to write more tickets.

An internal email revealed Thomas wanted troopers to write a minimum of two tickets every hour.

Thomas retired early in response.

The email was interpreted as a quota – and quotas were illegal in 2017. However, Thomas referred to his actions as being more akin to “goal-setting” rather than a hard and fast quota.

A String of Violations

Lt. Col. Thomas wasn’t the first high ranking law enforcement officer to lose his job over the quota issue. Major Mark Welch, who had been on the force for 35-years, lost his job two weeks prior to Thomas.

Officers under his command in eight counties interpreted an email sent on July 28, 2017, as a demand for a quota. Welch also demanded two citations an hour as part of an “important initiative.”

Still, Police Quotas Don’t Benefit Law Enforcement

It might make sense to motorists for law enforcement to get around the ticket quota law. After all, it’s all about the money.

But in reality, Florida Highway Patrol doesn’t see a dime of the citation revenue. The money generated from all tickets paid remains in the county or municipality in which the ticket was issued.

Monetary incentive isn’t the only reason to skirt police quotas: sometimes performance-based measures are enough to encourage both officers and troopers to chase numbers.

Police Quotas or Perks? How Troopers Skirt the Law

Quotas are illegal, but a law doesn’t prevent Florida law enforcement from taking similar measures, not in the form of the quota.

Welch, who was fired for seemingly enforcing police quotas, described his email not as a mandate but as an “initiative.”

The initiative is called Statewide Overtime Action Response, or SOAR.

SOAR is a program funded by Florida taxpayers designed to support and improve highway safety. The program serves as a pathway for state troopers to make extra cash working in high-traffic areas. It’s an incentive: Florida state troopers are some of the lowest paid traffic officers in the country.

Part of encouraging state troopers to those corridors is to deter speeding and to encourage road safety. And they make extra overtime pay for doing it.

In fact, two more emails obtained by the Miami Herald found that officers who met the two tickets per hour quota obtained paid weekends off as a reward for meeting the “goal.”

Indeed, these moves encourage traffic officers to write more tickets, and while they may not violate the official law on police quotas, they potentially violate the spirit of the law.

As Sen. Jeff Brandes, who oversees the budget of the Florida Highway Patrol, says, polices quotas go “against everything the Florida Highway Patrol should be doing. FHP is about safety. It’s not about meeting quotas.”

Challenging Your Ticket

Why is the issue of police quotas such a scandal for the FHP? Beyond potentially disregarding the law, these accusations create problems in enforcing tickets. If a state trooper was violating a law when writing a ticket to meet a quota, it makes it easier to challenge a ticket.

You can challenge a ticket in the state of Florida within 30 days after receiving the citation.

The process of fighting a ticket varies by county, but all the information you need should be provided on your ticket. To get started, read your ticket to find:

  • Which court you’re assigned to
  • Contact details for the court
  • Best way to contact the court

Many speeding tickets are fair. If you were caught blatantly violating the traffic laws, expect to pay the fine. But if you feel the ticket you received was unfair, then don’t be afraid to challenge it.

It’s possible to fight a ticket on your own, but you don’t have to. Florida speeding ticket lawyers are privy to speeding ticket laws and can recognize a flawed citation.

Send Us Your Ticket

Florida Highway Patrol says they’re people friendly – they don’t want to give out tickets. But with two high-level officers fired last year for sending out quotas in the form of “friendly suggestions,” we know it’s not always true.

Have you received a ticket that you don’t feel was fair? Send it to us, and we may be able to help you fight it.