Missouri bills prohibit ticket quotas, limit locals' ticket revenue stream

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, January 19, 2015

Multiple efforts underway at the Missouri statehouse are intended to put an end to police going on ticket-writing sprees.

Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, introduced a bill that would eliminate citation quotas for state or local law enforcement. HB237 would forbid performance evaluations from comparing the number of citations issued by one officer to the number of citations issued by another officer.

Advocates for the rule refer to tying an officer’s ticket writing activity to his or her performance evaluation as the “dirty little secret” of some police forces. They say the practice turns officers into revenue-generating machines.

Officials with the Independence, Mo., Police Department are on record as critical of the proposed change. According to a fiscal analysis on the bill, the agency indicates that “self-initiated activity including issuing citations is a primary function of patrol officers.”

“Not allowing supervisors to evaluate officers on their levels of self-initiated activity will have both fiscal and public safety implications.”

Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, is the sponsor of a similar effort. Curtman’s bill, HB429, and HB237 await assignment to committee.

A separate effort to curtail speed traps is also underway in Jefferson City.

Missouri law limits to 30 percent the amount of traffic fine revenue municipalities can keep. Cities or towns that receive more are required to turn it over to the state.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, would like to see the threshold lowered to 10 percent. He says it would help right a wrong.

“Government exists to serve our citizens,” Schmitt said in a recent news release. “Unfortunately, the municipal court system, especially in the St. Louis region, has created a system of traffic ticket tricks and schemes designed to extract more and more from our citizens.”

Supporters say the effort isn’t intended to punish local governments. They want to rein in communities that use their police departments to “pester” nonresident drivers with unreasonable ticketing.

Schmitt’s bill, SB5, is scheduled to get a public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 21, in the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee.

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