NYPD Blues

The New York Police Department has long insisted that it does not have a quota system for tickets and summonses, but for many New Yorkers, the evidence suggests otherwise, even if the practice is unlawful under a new state law.

A recent story in The New York Times seemed to produce a smoking gun of sorts. The newspaper was slipped a copy of a police tape recording that seemed to confirm the existence of quotas. On the recording, a police captain was heard telling supervisors in Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct that officers working day tours ought to be writing 20 tickets a week for offenses such as talking on a cell phone while driving or driving without a seat belt. Officers who failed to meet the threshold could be subject to transfer, the captain said.

The NYPD denied that the recording proves anything, but the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, told The Times that the captain’s instructions sounded “like a quota,” in part because the captain threatened to punish non-complying officers.

Several weeks ago, Governor Paterson signed legislation that banned police departments from establishing quotas for tickets and summonses. But one person’s quota is another person’s “goal.” Individual commanders can set numerical goals in their precincts, but they are not allowed to punish officers who write fewer tickets than their colleagues.

That’s a wise policy, because beat cops ought to have some discretion when
it comes to minor infractions. Still, it’s fair to assume that when the city’s treasury is bare, cops-and other enforcement agencies-will come under pressure to produce revenue. Why deny it?

Those who resent this particular method of raising revenue have an option: They can stop talking on cell phones while driving, and they can buckle up.

NYPD Blues