The Police Benevolent Association and the state of Florida are at impasse over pay and other issues, including whether state law-enforcement personnel should be evaluated based in part on the number of contacts they have with the public.
State officials have said in contract offers traffic-citation quotas will not be put in place. However, the Florida PBA is concerned about proposals to link employee performance with hard numbers involving contacts with the public, which include traffic stops, traffic citations, written warnings and arrests.
The evaluations would tie into bonuses state employees would be eligible to get under Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Rather than receiving across-the-board raises, state workers who score an “outstanding” rating would be eligible for a $5,000 bonus, while employees who get a “commendable” rating would be eligible for a $2,500 bonus.
How employees are evaluated is subject of ongoing contract negotiations between the PBA, the Department of Management Services and the Governor’s Office. The PBA is representing 1,100 state-agency law-enforcement officers, 1,600 Florida Highway Patrol troopers and 250 special agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the contract talks.
Matt Puckett, executive director of the Florida PBA, said the union is concerned as the state tries to measure the quality of the work employees are doing, they will begin measuring quantity, too. The union also is concerned such proposals will take away discretion from officers in the field.
“We have no problem with trying to measure quality,” Puckett said. “But there’s a fine line when you’re trying to measure quality to where you’re pushing some quantity on there and you’re kind of requiring some proactive enforcement that may not measure quality but could certainly get you into the situation where you’re issuing citations and making contacts with folks where it could be seen, especially with some money tied to it, as a quota.”
Puckett said contract talks have been amicable and negotiators with the state have assured the union they do not want to go down the path of quotas.
“So I’m not saying that’s what they’re doing,” he said. “But it’s hard to get these evaluations in a place where that can’t be construed by the public, by the officers or by any person that that’s where we’re at.”
The state, in recent contract proposals for the PBA, wrote while traffic-citation quotas will not be carried out, “statistical data related to individual employee or unit activities is relevant and may be considered as one of the multiple aspects or factors in asserting the overall effectiveness of traffic enforcement activities.”
In documents obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, the state has proposed FHP troopers must have an average of three citizen contacts per hour during their evaluation period to score a rating of “4” on a scale of one to five. To score the highest rating, a “5,” state troopers must have an average of four citizen contacts per hour.
Puckett said if such standards were applied statewide, troopers in South Florida could hit their targets faster than troopers working in more rural parts of the state.
Puckett questioned how the state can measure a trooper who’s driving down the highway and keeping motorists from speeding by his presence alone. Likewise, he asked how the state can measure a Fish and Wildlife officer on the water during scallop season whose presence is keeping people from going over the limit or breaking other laws.
DMS officials said they can’t comment on negotiations until finalized.
From News-Press Florida