Troopers squawk over ticket reward: Pressure on staties to snub warnings, go for cash
By Dave Wedge ( email@example.com ) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter
Thursday, November 16, 2006 - Updated: 11:02 PM EST
State police brass are pressuring troopers to dole out speeding tickets instead of warnings in a cash-grabbing mandate cops say is the closest the department has ever come to setting quotas.
The pilot program, designed to monitor troopers’ daily activities, lays out a new system that rewards troopers if they give out a ticket as opposed to a verbal or written warning.
Under the program, troopers get no extra pay but are credited with 1.5 hours on their daily time sheet for writing a ticket, one hour for a written warning and just a half-hour for a verbal warning. All of those activities previously had counted for one hour each in accounting for their workweek and justifying overtime.
The program, which top brass concedes is a work in progress, has already been challenged by the troopers’ union lawyer.
“They have provided these guys an incentive to write tickets and a disincentive to give warnings,” said a union source. “They should have discretion.”
The program, which is in place in barracks in Western Massachusetts and the South Shore, comes as the state faces a budget crunch that has prompted Gov. Mitt Romney to make sweeping cuts to social service programs.
Troopers interviewed by the Herald said the number of citations has been down in recent years, which has led to pressure from the courts and the insurance industry, both of which profit from civil fines.
In a statement, state police Lt. Sharon Costine denied the program encourages more tickets, saying it was designed “to ensure we are deploying the most appropriate resources within the Department.”
“As the principal statewide law enforcement agency, it is important for us to be aware of what types of calls for service and assistance our Department is providing,” the statement reads. “The public’s safety is the Department’s main concern, not increasing the number of citations issued or increased fines.”
But troopers say the system is a veiled attempt at setting ticket-writing quotas, which are banned under state law. Union officials said troopers in Western Massachusetts have been told they could face sanctions for not meeting the new guidelines, including suspension or being forced to have a sergeant ride with them.
One trooper who requested anonymity blasted the policy, saying he often gives verbal warnings rather than slap a motorist with a ticket that could ultimately cost more than $600, including insurance charges.
“I absolutely refuse to write tickets unless somebody really deserves it,” the trooper said. “You think twice before you take $600 out of somebody’s pocket.”
Another trooper said the policy flies in the face of academy training where recruits are taught not to “nickle and dime” the public.
“In the troopers’ opinion, (the policy) was changed to encourage troopers to write civil infractions instead of written or verbal warnings,” he said. “Troopers have a real problem with this.”