|State police ticket racket reaps fast cash
by Howie Carr, Harold Columnist, 10/1/00
Like the Mob, there's nothing the Massachusetts State Police appreciate more than a good earner.
Meet your prototypical Statie: a go-getter, a flatfoot who loves to flip on those blue lights, who relishes every chance he gets to swagger up to a pulled-over car, his right hand hovering menacingly close to his sidearm. . . .
"License and registration, please."
One word is optional. Please.
Its a beautiful thing, a traffic stop. Everybody wins, except the driver of course, but who cares about him? A citation is money for the local city or town, for the court assessing the fine and, most importantly, for the insurance companies, in the form of increased surcharges and fewer motorists getting safe-driver discounts.
Of course, the state police don't have ticket quotas. Perish the thought. They have lists of who's written the most, and they threaten to punish those who aren't writing enough, but . . . you call that a quota? Even though the Staties don't, wink-wink nudge-nudge, have quotas, they like to reward troopers who meet (or surpass) those quotas that don't exist.
Peruse, if you will, this latest document, out of Leominster, C-4, as its known. A certificate of commendation for Trooper Peck for his 320 stops in July.
They've got several kinds of awards out there, including the "10-Plus Arrest Club," the aforementioned "250 Club," and, my favorite, the "100 Seatbelt Club."
No mention of any "Warnings Club." But then, what would be the point? Nobody makes any money off a warning.
A call was immediately placed to the state police flack, Capt. Robert Bird. I asked him about the Warnings Club. "Warnings are included as traffic violations," he said.
So, any word on how many of Trooper Pecks 320 violations were "warnings," as opposed to revenue-enhancements? And how much do you suppose Trooper Peck earned for the commonwealth?
"It could work out to nothing if they're all warnings."
Hmmmm. Yes. But seriously, how much cash do you suppose he generated with those 320 stops?
"I refuse to engage in speculation."
So that leaves me no choice but to handle the speculation. If he issued 70 warnings (likely a high number) then he wrote 250 tickets. Peck also made the Seatbelt Club - he issued 126 citations at $25 a throw. Lets say they too are included in those 250 stops.
That's $3,150 right there, just for seatbelts.
Which leaves us another 125 or so moving violations. Lets say that the average ticket costs $150. That would be another $18,750 in fines, on top of the $3,150 for seatbelt violations. Grand total for one month: $21,900.
"This isn't about revenue, its about safety," says Capt. Bird, and stop me if you've heard this before. "Lt. Fay (who'se signature appears on the commendations) used to be down in Foxboro, where they had a very dangerous stretch of Route 1. So he encouraged people to do strict enforcement and they went 23 months without a fatality."
And of course these commendations for reaching certain numbers shouldn't be seen as quotas. No way. Repeat after me, this is not a quota.
"Are you saying a quota can be a piece of paper, printed up on a computer that says something like 'Certificate of Appreciation.' How much of an incentive is that?"
Well, how about the free dinners? Someone mentioned something about some free dinners.
"That whole suggestion fell through. It turns out, there are no dinners."
Actually, there should be free dinners - paid for by the states fabulously wealthy car insurance industry. Right next to Lt. Fay's signature, they should have Arthur Remillard's. He's the president of Commerce Insurance.
Maybe the dinner tabs for C-4s good earners should be picked up by DAIM - Domestic Auto Insurers of Massachusetts. They could have a ceremony at the State House, and Trooper Peck et al. could shake hands with the partners of the law firm of Finnegan & Underwood, lobbyists to those who love surcharges.
And then the lobbyist would present the troopers with the highest award the Mass. State Police give their own.
The Good Earner Award.
(Howie Carr is a columnist for The Boston Herald.)
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