In response to recent news reports indicating that some local police departments may be implementing traffic ticket quotas among their ranks, the ACLU of Rhode Island has sent letters to all Rhode Island police chiefs reminding them of a state law, enacted in 2010, that specifically prohibits this practice. The ACLU is also considering legal action on behalf of affected motorists.
The letters were prompted by two Channel 10 stories earlier this month suggesting that some Rhode Island police departments were requiring, or strongly recommending, that officers issue a certain number of traffic tickets while on patrol. Since 2010, Rhode Island law has prohibited police departments from implementing quotas – the practice of requiring a set number of tickets, arrests, and/or investigatory stops that an officer must meet, within a specific time frame.
The ACLU letter to the police chiefs, sent last week, noted:
Ticket quota policies, whether “suggested” or mandated, send a message that police enforcement is more about making money than enforcing the law in a fair, equitable and necessary manner. An encounter between a motorist and a police officer over a traffic violation is never a pleasant one, but it is even less so when the basis for the stop is to meet a quota, not to address a truly legitimate safety need. A quota policy can only generate disrespect for, and cynicism about, law enforcement.
The letter concluded by stating that “the implementation of traffic ticket quotas is problematic as a matter of policy, but even more so when it involves a police department itself violating the law.”
The ACLU today encouraged individuals with evidence of police department traffic ticket quotas to share the information so that litigation on behalf of motorists ticketed under such policies could be considered.
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The full text of the letter to RI police chiefs is available here.