A Georgia police department offered an interesting incentive for officers who wrote the most traffic tickets.
Officers at the Douglasville Police Department in the Atlanta suburb of Douglasville wrote 4,000 fewer tickets last year than in 2018. During a Jan. 23 night shift roll call meeting, Lt. Brandon Nutter suggested food as a prize for the cops who help boost numbers, according to Fox 5 Atlanta.
“The numbers came out for traffic stops last year dropped from 14,000 to 10,000,” Nutter was heard saying on a video recording of the meeting. “We’re shooting for six. That’s kind of a goal. One thing we thought about is if we average over five a shift … one month … quarter, we can go out and buy some steaks, pull the grill out, and do like a steak dinner for the shift.”
He also suggested officers who achieved the six-ticket quota “should get a certificate for that.”
A few days after the meeting, Nutter sent an email claiming a superior offered to host a cookout for the squad if they write 75 tickets.
“Captain Weaver said if we write 75 tickets this rotation he will do something for the shift. He may come up and grill out for us or something. Just a challenge for us,” he wrote.
Police Chief Gary Sparks admitted the video “looks wrong” and insisted there is not a ticket quota at DPD.
“We don’t condone that,” he added.
The alleged pressure might stem from budgetary concerns for the City of Douglasville. Approximately 7 percent, or $1.8 million, is expected to come from revenue generated by traffic stops this fiscal year. It is unclear why the ticket numbers dropped, but reports also noted officers were giving more warnings and they had to respond to more emergency calls. Joanna Weiss, the co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, believes prioritizing other aspects of policing are a step in the right direction. Her organization advocates cities stop relying on revenue produced by the criminal justice system.
“Just to say you have to write a certain number of tickets, there’s no connection with what the public safety issues are,” she told Fox 5. “The truth is, if officers are responding to more calls for service, they’re being more responsive to the community. So that to me is a very good reason for ticket writing to go down.”
In another video acquired by Fox 5, a lieutenant told his team they could get in trouble if they don’t write enough citations.
“They see a drop in traffic stops and they start getting a little upset about it so … if we’re getting our six a night like we’re trying to shoot for, we shoot for that, we’re going to be doing our part,” he said.
Sparks said the officer was reprimanded for the comment.
“He. Did. It. Wrong. He. Made. A. Mistake. The mistake has been rectified,” the chief told the news station. “And to the citizens of Douglasville, there has never been and never will be … quotas.”