A recent article in the St. Petersburg Times highlighted the story of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who has accused the department of firing him because he didn’t write enough tickets.
The Highway Patrol predictably denied having a ticket quota.
They said that the officer was fired for not meeting “performance standards.” This is a common response anytime a ticket quota is mentioned in the press.
However, since the number of citations given out by an officer are at the heart of most department’s performance standards, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.
Here’s an excerpt from the article describing the ticket quota allegations:
Christopher Maul, who spent 12 years with the FHP, says he was fired in June for not writing enough tickets.
“The only reason I can see why I was fired was I didn’t write enough tickets,” said Maul, 38, who lives in Largo.
The FHP disputes that, saying Maul was fired for failing to meet performance standards. […]
But the number of tickets Maul wrote was frequently cited in a lengthy June memo laying out the case for his dismissal. Maul was four months short of completing a mandatory probation after leaving briefly for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and returning to the FHP.
Maul received a positive review earlier in June from his immediate supervisor. Later, an FHP major told Maul he was rescinding the evaluation because it did not “accurately reflect” his performance.
Maj. Ryan Burchnell noted that Maul wrote “only 63 citations, 22 warnings and eight faulty equipment notices while working 56 traffic crashes.” And he wrote only 16 citations in December, Burchnell noted.
Maul, who said he didn’t have radar in his police car for part of that period, improved his numbers as the months wore on, from 33 in January to 53 in April. Not good enough, Burchnell concluded: “Trooper Maul’s citation-issuance has been substandard.”
A captain for the area Maul patrolled sent Burchnell an e-mail saying that Maul’s supervisors believe he has “a good work ethic.” Burchnell was not swayed and demanded a new evaluation.
The head of the union representing troopers said the FHP is using Maul to set an example for other troopers.
From the way the article describes the situation, it seems clear that the head of the troopers’ union was right:
During his probation, Maul’s immediate supervisor, Sgt. Raymond Ada, concluded that Maul was meeting or exceeding expectations.
Capt. Robert French scrawled “keep up the good work” on a February review that read: “Trooper Maul is a good trooper with a lot of experience. I do not foresee him having any difficulty in completing his probationary period.”
Burchnell disagreed and set about to change Maul’s evaluations.
In an e-mail exchange, Burchnell told Capt. Urana Harris: “I am going to hold the supervisors accountable, which means you.” He added that Maul “is not cutting it.”
Unfortunately, ticket quotas — and denials of their existence — are nothing new.