Richard & Friend
We Get Questions . . .
by Richard Hannibal
Do police departments have quotas on how many traffic citations must be written?
This question is asked a lot. It is probably a hold-over from the 1970's when I was a kid-cop. Back then, we had to write one ticket for every free-hour of patrol time. In other words, if we were not busy on a specific assignment for 4 hours of the shift, our supervisor expected 4 traffic citations written for that day. Needless to say, this caused some errors in judgment during the last hour of the shift. Thank goodness those archaic days are over.
Today, there are no California police agencies that have quotas on how many traffic citations must be written. This includes not only traffic citations, but also parking tickets and arrests. Even if somewhere there was an unscrupulous police administrator that would like to see that happen, the law prohibits it
California Vehicle Code Section 41602 states:
No state or local agency employing peace officers or parking enforcement employees engaged in the enforcement of this (Vehicle) code or any local ordinance adopted pursuant to this code, may establish any policy requiring any peace officer or parking enforcement employees to meet an arrest quota.
California Vehicle Code Section 41603 states:
No state or local agency employing peace officers or parking enforcement employees engaged in the enforcement of this code shall use the number of arrests or citations issued by a peace officer or parking enforcement employees as the sole criterion for promotion, demotion, dismissal, or the earning of any benefit provided by the agency. Those arrests or citations, and their ultimate dispositions, may only be considered in evaluating the overall performance of a peace officer or parking enforcement employees. An evaluation may include, but shall not be limited to, criteria such as attendance, punctuality, work safety, complaints by citizens, commendations, demeanor, formal training, and professional judgment.
As in any job, there is police supervisory oversight in all aspects of our duties and responsibilities. We are paid to enforce the law. However, we are also paid to prevent crime, protect the citizens and perform a multitude of other tasks, especially in a small town like Morro Bay. As most of you know, your police department provides services that would be unheard of in a larger agency. In addition, we are also taught not to go by 'the letter of the law' but by 'the intent of the law.' The law provides discretion to officers and the Morro Bay Police Department issues about five times as many traffic warnings as citations.
So, the issuance of traffic citations is certainly one of the indicators of a police officer doing his or her job. But, so are warnings and so is merely being seen driving a marked police car down the street. Visible patrol is a crime deterrent. When it comes time for police officer evaluations, everything is taken into consideration, with the intent that a good, productive balance is reached.