A Law Student's Attempt to Understand It All.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Traffic Ticket Quotas

Finals are now officially over. I am in the post-exam decompression. This includes being a little ill (my body finally has permission to succumb to illness), lots of sleep, and a curious headache.

Of course, my law school had various parties (official and unofficial) involving copious amounts of alcohol. Now, before you think my headache is a hangover: I do not get hangovers and I didn’t have very much to drink.

I needed to be temperate because I had an interview Friday with the state supreme court justice. I believe it went well. I kept them laughing, and it was not about my resume. That’s usually a good sign. I should be hearing about it in a week. I really want this internship, so I am hoping they think I am a “cool guy.”

Then, at a law school party yesterday, I was speaking with a State Patrol trooper. (Yes, law enforcement and lawyers mingle— sometimes). Someone (not me) said, “Yes, but how high is your traffic ticket quota?” The trooper replied with a joke about how she gets a toaster if she could write 100 tickets in a month. Her point, of course, is that there are no quotas for traffic citations.

However, the trooper then went on to betray her defense. She said that the supervisors will question her if she does not write any tickets on a ten hour shift. She framed the situation as, “They ask: what have you been doing for the last ten hours, then?”

The trooper gave an anecdote. One day, she was assigned to the Left Hand Canyon patrol. She drove five hundred miles and had only stopped one car. That is because the Canyon can be a fairly empty place, depending on the time of the year. When she came back to the station, her sergeant noticed she had issued only one citation. The sergeant asked, “What happened? Did you go hiking today instead of patrolling?” The Trooper then needed to explain that the Canyon was particularly empty that day and, as proof that she was on the job, she produced the mileage on her patrol car which had five hundred new miles on it.

This anecdote is precisely one that proves the pressure patrol officers feel in writing tickets. It is true that few police departments are brainless enough to give an exact numerical quota of traffic citations. Yet, if an officer or trooper or deputy faces a likely dress-down every time they have “too few” citations, then that is still pressure to give citations.

What are the chances, now, that this trooper will give you a warning the next time she stops you?

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