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.