TUCSON, AZ The Tucson Police Officers Association on Thursday called for the department to eliminate the ticket quota for patrol officers.
“We’re just philosophically opposed to any kind of quota,” said Jason Winsky, government affairs director for the union. “It’s a morale issue for us because the officer no long has discretion. It’s mandatory.”
Tucson Police Department patrol officers are expected to make at least one “traffic contact” a day on average that results in a citation or a warning, according to Chief Roberto Villaseñor.
“One ticket a day is not something that would be considered a quota in my mind,” he said.
The purpose of the requirement was to encourage proactive traffic enforcement, the police chief said. Traffic contacts deter “bad driving habits,” and Villaseñor said it required his officers to do their jobs, which is ensuring “the smooth flow of traffic.”
“Our traffic enforcement had become almost non-existent (before the requirement),” he said. “There was less than one traffic contact per week and that was unacceptable.”
Villaseñor first implemented what he calls a “performance expectation” in January 2013. The original requirement was for patrol officers to issue at least one citation or warning a day on average, which is the same as the current version. He then amended it July this year to require at least one hazardous citation before changing it again on Sept. 26.
Having a strong traffic program saves more lives and property damage than anything else the department can do, Villaseñor said. There are more traffic accidents than any property or violent crime.
“A chief of police should not be challenged for requiring his officers to enforce traffic laws,” he said.
The TPOA is working with House Rep. Bruce Wheeler on a legislation to ban ticket quotas in Arizona for the next legislative section. Wheeler, who is looking for re-election in Legislative District 10 this season, said that the requirement is “not a good idea.”
“We can double speak all we want, but it’s still a quota,” he said. “It’s still an arbitrary, disruptive requirement.”
Having a quota does not help the community’s impression of the police and disrupts police officers’ more vital investigation work, Wheeler said. And if it’s designed to generate revenue, “that’s certainly not a way to do it,” he added.
One of his opponents in the election, Republican Todd Clodfelter, weighed in on the issue, saying he agrees with Wheeler that ticket quotas are “unnecessary.” He said too much enforcement could make people apprehensive about police officers, though he did not agree that there should be a state law banning ticket quotas.
“I’m not sure we really need legislation to make that happen,” Clodfelter said. “Not from a state level.”
A fellow Democrat in the race, Stefanie Mach, said she supports Wheeler’s effort, saying that the police officers and the public both do not like quotas for traffic tickets.
Bill Wildish, another candidate in Legislative District 10, could not be reached for comment.