Ticket quotas for police-- are they an urban legend?
"I don't think it's a fair word to apply to any police activity. The police officers are trained. They're trained to have reason to stop," said Ted Minall, the chief of the Governor's Highway Safety Program.
But a Vermont State Police internal email seems to suggest otherwise. It surfaced during an investigation into the alleged DUI arrest of an off-duty police officer. Burlington Deputy Police Chief Andi Higbee's stop was part of a state police operation called Sober Summer. It allows certain barracks extra DUI patrols. The internal email obtained by WCAX News shows state police solicited troopers to work a special detail the night Higbee was pulled over. The email instructs troopers to make two vehicle stops per hour.
"It's unacceptable from our perspective that the Vermont State Police would have a quota system that any number of cars are required to be stopped even in the absence of a motor vehicle violation or criminal violation," Higbee's lawyer, Brooks McArthur, said Monday.
"Risking their lives for traffic safety is admirable and I think the word quota diminishes what they actually do," Minall said.
Minall heads the Governor's Highway Safety Program. He's in charge of doling out federal funds to help local and state police agencies combat dangerous driving practices. Vermont gets about $3 million to $4 million a year for programs like Sober Summer and Click It or Ticket. He says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSHA) dictates guidelines called performance measures to agencies that receive federal money.
"I mean take a look at your own self, if you drive down the block and if you stood on the corner for an hour, wouldn't you see at least two violations going on?" Minall said. "And what you have is, you have a police officer who's out working a particular detail-- if it's seatbelts, if it's impaired driving, distracted driving, speeding-- trained to recognized these violations."
In response to the quota allegations, Vermont State Police Col. Tom L'Esperance issued the following statement:
"The Vermont State Police do not use quotas. There are no set number of required tickets or arrests for any trooper; for patrol operations, grant funded initiatives or any other function. The Vermont State Police do set benchmarks for citizen contacts of any trooper working an overtime detail funded by federal grants. These benchmarks ensure that any trooper working a federally funded traffic safety detail is proactively and judiciously using the time to increase public safety."
The colonel says those benchmarks are used to ensure public funds are spent appropriately while measuring the impact special enforcement efforts have on driver behavior.
"Tickets and arrests are really not what the outcomes are," Minall said. "The outcomes are changing behavior."
So far this year, 41 people have been killed on Vermont roads; 40 percent of those fatal crashes involved impaired drivers, another 30 percent were attributed to speed. The Governor's Highway Safety Program says the data show these federally funded details work.
The next DUI campaign likely to kick off Labor Day will be called Drive Hammered, Get Nailed.
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