Arizona bill targets ticket quotas

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/9/2015

A bill on the move at the Arizona statehouse is intended to quell police ticket quotas.

The House County and Municipal Affairs Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill that would prohibit local governments and police departments from requiring officers to issue a certain number of citations within a specific period of time.

Sponsored by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, the bill would also prohibit departments from using the number of citations written by officers to determine rank or classification.

The changes would not affect county and state law enforcement agencies.

The legislative push follows recent policy changes at the Tucson Police Department. In summer 2014, the department set a requirement for officers to issue one ticket each day. Addressing criticism, Chief Roberto Villasenor amended the policy last fall to require one “traffic contact” per day, which can be a citation or warning.

John Thomas, representing the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, said the group doesn’t feel the issue should be handled at the state level. Instead, he said individual cities and towns should be free to decide what individual departments can do.

Tucson Police Lt. Tim Reese told lawmakers the requirement is just one tool management uses to evaluate officers. He said the department does not rule out officer discretion when deciding whether to issue citations.

“This is a performance evaluation,” he said. “This isn’t a quota per se.”

Rep. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, said he doesn’t buy it. He said the protection from quotas is needed for police who have too much pressure put on them and it undermines their ability to use discretion.

“The whole concept of giving them a quota to say ‘You have to get this many tickets’ to me isn’t saying ‘You’ve got to do your job well,’” Gray said. “It’s really saying ‘We want this number of dollars of revenue from you,’ which for me is a skewing of the focus of what the police department should be about.”

The bill, HB2410, awaits further consideration on the House floor. A similar effort, HB2376, is in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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