Video: Auburn cop fired for blowing the whistle on ticket, arrest quotas

posted at 2:41 pm on July 25, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Do police officers write tickets because of quotas? Most law-enforcement agencies will deny that any exist, but the police department in the college town of Auburn, Alabama will find that difficult. One of their officers secretly recorded briefings in which quotas were explicitly demanded for traffic citations, arrests, and other “contacts,” which if enforced would have meant nearly 1.5 police contacts per resident each year. Reason TV highlights the efforts of Justin Hanners, who lost his job after blowing the whistle:

Auburn, Alabama is home to sprawling plains, Auburn University, and a troubling police force. After the arrival of a new police chief in 2010, the department entered an era of ticket quotas and worse.

“When I first heard about the quotas I was appalled,” says former Auburn police officer Justin Hanners, who claims he and other cops were given directives to hassle, ticket, or arrest specific numbers of residents per shift. “I got into law enforcement to serve and protect, not be a bully.”

Hanners blew the whistle on the department’s tactics and was eventually fired for refusing to comply and keep quiet. He says that each officer was required to make 100 contacts each month, which included tickets, arrests, field interviews, and warnings. This equates to 72,000 contacts a year in a 50,000 person town. His claims are backed up by audio recordings of his superiors he made. The Auburn police department declined requests to be interviewed for this story.

“There are not that many speeders, there are not that many people running red lights to get those numbers, so what [the police] do is they lower their standards,” says Hanners. That led to the department encouraging officers to arrest people that Hanners “didn’t feel like had broken the law.”

Assertive enforcement has its place, especially in crime-plagued areas like New York City before the “broken-windows” strategy was deployed. That strategy relied on finding actual criminal behavior and enforcing the law rather than setting quotas, however. Hanners believes that the policies didn’t get put in place as a crime-reduction strategy anyway, but as a revenue-producing mechanism for the city. The chief, whose name goes unmentioned by Reason, retired this month for medical reasons. The city of Auburn needs to answer some questions about what their policies are intended to produce — and what kind of community they want to have.

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…when I recently rented an Enterprise rent-a-car, I got a “ticket” from them, for allegedly blowing a toll road worth 90 cents, with their $18.00 “service fee” added onto it. When I pointed out that the road they said I blew a toll on WASN’T A TOLL ROAD, that a violation would be more than the 90 cent toll, that I kept each and every receipt of every booth I went through in multiple states, AND demanded the photo of that car, with my ass in the seat, going through a toll without paying, they backed off, refunded the money to my credit card, and made it go away. They expected me to “just pay it”, but I’m an OCD nutcase, AND a lawyer, so they fudged with the wrong shyster.

Saltyron on July 25, 2013 at 5:17 PM

You have a gift for storytelling. Ever thought about doing a podcast? ;)

gryphon202 on July 25, 2013 at 5:22 PM

DJ Rick on July 25, 2013 at 2:51 PM

How did you prove the 4 contacts?

chemman on July 25, 2013 at 5:25 PM

If people aren’t breaking laws, then you obviously don’t have enough laws.

DavidM on July 25, 2013 at 5:30 PM

You have a gift for storytelling. Ever thought about doing a podcast? ;)

gryphon202 on July 25, 2013 at 5:22 PM

No time for podcasts with my 11-12 hour work days.

Oh, I had the crowd at my nephew’s grad party enthralled with that story, let me tell ya. My family that was in the rented car with me also marveled at the BALLS it took for Enterprise to do that, when they were first-hand witnesses to the tolls I went through, as they split the cost of the tolls with me.

I’m tellin’ ya, you have to monitor EVERYTHING these days, – utilities, tolls, bills, receipts, etc. It’s very easy to get screwed out of even a buck, because a buck times 1000 people = $1000.

Saltyron on July 25, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Theres nothing worse than police corruption.

There should be several more fired employees and a few criminal prosecutions for official oppression of area residents.

TX-96 on July 25, 2013 at 6:01 PM

It seems to me that the fired Justin Hanners should be immediately installed as the new Chief of Police.

RJL on July 25, 2013 at 6:23 PM

Texas had this problem for a while. There were a few towns near freeways that conducted excessive enforcement. They claimed it was for community safety. Then the Texas legislature passed a law that forced communities to disgorge most of the fines to the state treasury for tickets written on state and federal highways.

The speed traps shut down.

No Truce With Kings on July 25, 2013 at 3:14 PM

I used to drive on one of those highways, south of Houston, a notorious speed-trap which at the time we believed to be the main impetus for the law.
The city boundaries were constructed so that they stretched out from town-center across the highway like 4 or 5 extended fingers (thick and rectangular).
The town had speed-limit signs posted at every point where the city limits crossed the road, which meant the limit went from highway-speed to city-speed for about a mile or less, back to highway speed for the same, back to city speed, back to highway speed, etc.
You were bound to miss one of the changes, and the cop cars stayed idling on the side of the highway waiting.
Pure speed-trap, and they got called on it eventually.

Don’t mess with Texas.

AesopFan on July 25, 2013 at 6:35 PM

As a former police officer, I can tell you that my department didn’t have any quotas for the number of tickets or arrests we made – in fact our chief had limits on how much time we were ALLOWED to spend up on the freeway. Texas has legal limits on how much revenue any city is allowed to generate via ticket fines (I believe it is 1/3 of the police department’s budget, but that information may be old.) But regardless, all of us knew that the way to get promoted was to be active – very active – and the best way to do that is to write tickets. Lots of tickets.

eyesights on July 25, 2013 at 7:13 PM

As a former police officer, I can tell you that my department didn’t have any quotas for the number of tickets or arrests we made – in fact our chief had limits on how much time we were ALLOWED to spend up on the freeway. Texas has legal limits on how much revenue any city is allowed to generate via ticket fines (I believe it is 1/3 of the police department’s budget, but that information may be old.) But regardless, all of us knew that the way to get promoted was to be active – very active – and the best way to do that is to write tickets. Lots of tickets.

eyesights on July 25, 2013 at 7:13 PM

So in other words, maybe not quotas, but harassment of citizens could be one gauge of your performance relative to your fellow officers. -.-

gryphon202 on July 25, 2013 at 7:30 PM

That happens in Auburn? One thing to say – Roll Tide!

famous amos on July 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM

So question.. things changed in 2010? Where did this all originate? Further up the top? The DOJ? If they are giving gifts to cops who abuse their badges each month.. are the Police Chiefs, etc. getting gifts also from somewhere higher up?

Nothing but lawlessness everywhere. This guy is a freaking hero! This is the kind of man that should be heading of the DOJ!

JellyToast on July 25, 2013 at 8:18 PM

The fact that the average DUI will net the State and County about $10K had NOTHING to do with ot – ya know.

PJ Emeritus on July 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM

How that doesn’t violate the Constitution in regards to the proportionality of the crime I’ll never know. It’s obviously a revenue stream and not a punishment. Otherwise there would be fines for more serious crimes like murder.

njrob on July 25, 2013 at 8:56 PM

hmmm let’s have the law and order types make this about the police officer who blew the whistle and not about the fact the police are using quotas just like they did with snowden.

unseen on July 25, 2013 at 9:00 PM

you know if I was a police chief I would think a day without writing a ticket would be a good day.

unseen on July 25, 2013 at 9:02 PM

At least the City of Detroit never sunk this low.

IlikedAUH2O on July 26, 2013 at 12:44 AM

I regard police quotas the same way I do “head-hunting” QBs. It should be illegal along with the over-used tie-ups when cops stop a car and ask for permission to search it. Say no, and the cops get the dogs (hopefully w/out them cueing the dog), get a warrant and decide to bust your nuts in every way they can for wasting their time.
Question: who are these judges that practically automatically sign these warrants.
One puts his life and confort at risk when trying to defend their constitutional rights.
BTW, how much longer are policeman going to stop pretending that they can not be videotaped? When will this ruse end?

thegreatbeast on July 26, 2013 at 12:54 AM

But John Roberts would say it was a tax, administered equally across the spectrum of drivers by random roving assessors.

Nice work if you can get it.

platypus on July 26, 2013 at 9:22 AM

A Raleigh cop I know explained to me that Raleigh does not have a quota system BUT – court time is paid as overtime – so there is an active incentive to issue tickets.

PJ Emeritus on July 26, 2013 at 10:14 AM

My grandfather had a relative (a cousin, I believe) who was a police officer. I remember both my grandfather and my grandmother telling me this relative swore there were quotas for tickets, etc.

englishqueen01 on July 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

I don’t have a problem with police enforcement of laws. I do have a serious problem with them acting as if every one they pull over is an ATM for the city from which to pull money. I few years ago I was pulled over for speeding, and he was justified. He also cited me for failure to signal (bogus), failure to provide proof of insurance (I have never NOT had insurance, and Houston police can check on a car’s insurance status at the scene), and even tried to get me on not wearing glasses (I had contacts in). Four “violations”, three tickets, two dismissals, and one trial which ended in a whopping $20 fine, mostly because I was unwilling to submit to being an ATM instead of shelling out perhaps $300 in fines.

I have made several complaints about the Baytown, TX cops who seem to think that their badge gives them immunity from traffic laws. All of this seriously erodes trust in police and gov’t authority.

NeoCon_1 on July 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

njrob on July 25, 2013 at 8:56 PM

Oh, you want constitutional violation? Try this on for size – being CHARGED – not convicted of DWI/DUI you IMMEDIATELY lose your license for 10 days and have to pay a $50 “administrative fee” to get it back.

Keep in mind, you have not even BEEN to court yet – much less convicted.

PJ Emeritus on July 26, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Cop arrives, sits hidden from her in the parking lot – watching her. Observers her walk to her vehicle, get in and drive. He waits ntil she pulls onto the public street, then pulls her.

Similar thing happened visiting the inlaws in their Maine resort town. Took the Mrs to a coffee shop for breakfast. Parking is tight and I parked where I thought I could. Ambiguous signs lead me to believe only part of the row was reserved for Lobstermen (this was a small port area).

The Mrs said she was cold. I went back to my car to get a sweatshirt. Cop was just sitting nearby. Went back finished my bagel and coffee. When we went back there was a ticket on the car for parking in a restricted area. $25. I took another look and it appears the whole row is reserved parking during day hours. Wife said pay it. I went right to the Police Station and asked for parking dispute form.

Clerk asked what happened and I told them story, including the part where the cop saw me go back to the car. I said he could have easily told me to move but watched me go back to the shop then write the ticket.

Clerk said just give the ticket. Tourist town and all my local inlaws and friends talk about is parking revenue and ticket revenue.

Rich on July 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM

I used to work for the DMV in Vermont, part of that duty being driving examiner (a job I wouldn’t wish on a convicted rapist). We didn’t have quotas, per se, but our supervisor (a homosexual who augmented his income by taking in foster children with his partner) routinely harassed us with a statistic that said a certain percentage of our drivers should fail the test.

This statistic was thrown in our face 12 months of the year and throughout the entire state. It did not take into account the weather (you are going to get a lot of failures during or after a snowstorm), the change of seasons, or the fact that there are high school driving instructors who are hilariously incompetent while others could have trained chauffeurs for the US Secret Service.

If you ever want to know what stupid feels, smells and tastes like, get a job with the government. The government is the Shao-lin master of stupid. Especially in a Blue state like Vermont.

thejackal on July 26, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Not the first guy to be canned for pointing to the elephant in the room.
Sadly he won’t be the last.

TimBuk3 on July 26, 2013 at 6:13 PM

As several here have suggested, quotas are a stealth tax. When police turn into revenue raisers instead of law enforcers–and it’s not just Alabama (speed traps in Georgia, New Hampshire, New York,Kentucky—all over the country)-not only do they lose their function but all respect, trust and good will of the general public as well.

MaiDee on July 26, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Whenever I see an article or posting about traffic laws and the people whining about them, I want to puke at the hypocrisy shown from Hot Air contributors as well as the Hot Air readers who submit comments.

Everyone wants to point fingers at the liberals, progressives and Democrats as if they are the lawbreakers and troublemakers. To any so-called conservatives who can’t follow and obey simple traffic rules, I say it doesn’t stop there. I venture to say that many of you are people who honestly feel as if they you are a cut above others and life is all about you. You are very likely to break other laws as if they don’t apply to you.

As a blue-blood conservative, I can’t for the life of me understand why people feel they have a right to pick and choose the laws they want to obey. Each and everyday, I observe many people driving 15 to 20 mph over posted speed limits. I see many people ignoring construction zones with flashing lights and lowered speed limits. Stop signs are, for the most part, useless in any part of the country. Most people simply slow, look left and right, and turn as if the stop sign is a yield sign.

Fortunately, I understand that all vehicles manufactured in 2014 and beyond will be equipped with black boxes to track driver’s actions and behaviors. Do I feel comfortable with one more tracking device imposed on ordinary, everyday citizens? In this case, yes. I understand what S-T-O-P means, and when one stupid ass fails to stop and causes a crash, I hope the black box can determine exactly who is at fault. When one ignorant driver is doing 45 in a 30 mph zone, I hope the black box can back up a police officer who simply pulls the driver over for speeding on an observation, without the aid of a radar gun.

Being the good citizen that I am, I frequently hop in my car and drive several miles around my neighborhood to keep lawbreakers in check. Many of the residential streets have a posted speed limit of 35 mph, with some even going lower to 30 and 25 mph. It’s for the safety of people, especially children. And the lower speed limits in street and highway construction areas are for the safety of the construction workers. I drive the posted speed limits and irritate a good deal of drivers, especially during the “rush” hours. Many of the roads are double yellow lined for miles, and a few will even ignore the double yellow lines and pass me when they have the chance. It’s possible that I might be responsible for some road rage, but I could care less.

Yes, an officer swears to uphold the laws. Speed limits and stop signs are lawful and for a purpose. In my humble opinion, a good officer is one who will go out of their way to ticket traffic offenders. That officer is serving the law-abiding citizens. That officer is protecting others by stopping and ticketing offenders. The word “quota” in these days is different than the days when most people had respect for the law and others. Quotas back then were hard to meet because people obeyed the law. Quotas today are easy to meet simply because so many people have disregard for traffic laws, and those who impose and set the quotas know that.

To anyone who whines about breaking laws and getting caught, the answer is simple. Don’t break the law and there will be no reason for the fear of getting caught.

metroryder on July 26, 2013 at 7:02 PM

At least the City of Detroit never sunk this low.

IlikedAUH2O on July 26, 2013 at 12:44 AM

Well it couldn’t really happen in Detroit. Every out of state car is stripped and up on blocks at the first stop sign.

Oldnuke on July 26, 2013 at 7:15 PM

metroryder If people are reckless driving, I couldn’t agree with you more. However here we are talking about QUOTAS–this means that even if people aren’t breaking the law you invent excuses or terribly minor technicalities (going 26 MPH in a 25 MPH zone).

The police desperately need the public’s good will and respect and when they lose it because they are tax collectors, they deserve to get what’s coming to them–such as lack of public cooperation. Example: Policeman being beaten with a tire iron–recognized by the driver to whom he gave a $200 fine for a minor technicality. “phuck the cop” says the driver and doesn’t call in the assault on his cell phone.

MaiDee on July 26, 2013 at 7:17 PM

metroryder on July 26, 2013 at 7:02 PM

So basically, you’re a self-absorbed arrogant high-and-mighty @sshole cop-wannabe who goes out intentionally screwing with other people just because you’ve got nothing better to do?
Is that about right?
Give me another explanation of your behavior if you can.

dentarthurdent on July 26, 2013 at 10:22 PM

To anyone who whines about breaking laws and getting caught, the answer is simple. Don’t break the law and there will be no reason for the fear of getting caught.

metroryder on July 26, 2013 at 7:02 PM

So basically, you’re a self-absorbed arrogant high-and-mighty @sshole cop-wannabe who goes out intentionally screwing with other people just because you’ve got nothing better to do?
Is that about right?
Give me another explanation of your behavior if you can.

dentarthurdent on July 26, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Dent, I think you nailed it.

And Metro, I can not stress enough, I mentioned upthread that my problem is not with the existence of quotas. It’s that the police departments feel a need for whatever reason to lie about it. And don’t even try to give me that line of bullshit that it’s not that many departments that do. Auburn has given the whole of law enforcement a bad name by conducting business fraudulently. If that bothers you, maybe you should find a different line of work.

gryphon202 on July 27, 2013 at 3:54 AM

Going by the reactions of former police officer comments here, many cop shops many not have direct quotas but they may be indirect. If officer Rick consistently writes more tickets than every other officer there, he may get the gold badge and the bigger paycheck when promotion time comes around.

TimBuk3 on July 28, 2013 at 11:26 AM

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