The word that got all the media attention shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody. Quotas. A federal prosecutor said Massachusetts State Police had ticket quotas. Eight to ten tickets per four hours or they would have their pay cut.
It’s only news if you’re not paying attention. The same situation was reported years ago. The only difference is the old quota was in dollars and the new quota was in tickets.
Troop E was the principal revenue collection arm of the State Police and the most blatant offender. It wasn’t the only one with quotas. Elsewhere there were target numbers of “contacts” per shift. Officers working on federal grants had to produce a satisfactory number of speeding tickets. Even targeted “drunk driving” or “distracted driving” patrols could choose to write speeding tickets instead.
A bunch of troopers got in trouble after superiors realized they lied about making quota. Some of them made quota and left work early, but some faked records after never showing up at all. This led to federal criminal charges and a state investigation.
The reason it’s a federal crime is, State Police received federal money. You can go to federal prison for stealing from an organization that receives federal support, even if you don’t steal anything that was specifically given by the federal government. You can go to prison. Corrupt police officers, maybe not.
Federal prosecutors mentioned the quota during sentencing hearings in the Troop E corruption roundup. They wrote
Few crimes strike at the core of the justice system more than those involving law enforcement officers who choose to break, rather than uphold, the law. Though at its heart a crime motivated by simple greed, it is far more troubling than the run of the mill fraud cases in this court. This crime, and the abusive culture it served to perpetuate, reflect a betrayal of the trust and power granted to those who serve in law enforcement.
Tough words but not meant to be taken seriously. In the next paragraph prosecutors recommended a more lenient sentence than federal sentencing guidelines called for. Eric Chin got three months of house arrest. Falsified tickets, theft, lying, official corruption, and the punishment is staying home for three months.
Fellow defendant Gregory Raftery, who stole over $50,000 also got three months. He will have to spend them in federal custody, not necessarily behind bars. The last few months of a federal sentence can be spent in a halfway house.
What state officials should do now is refund every ticket ever written on the Mass Pike. Quotas have been illegal for 50 years. They have been imposed for at least 20 years and there is no reason to doubt they go back to the origins of the Turnpike. With dozens of officers charged we can see fraud was not an exception.
People respond to incentives. If the incentive points towards corruption some people will go there.
Our system of speed limit setting and enforcement is rotten top to bottom.
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