11/7/2005Florida Professor Challenges Ticket Quotas
A University of South Florida professor has launched a federal lawsuit against Tampa police ticket quotas
University of South Florida Professor Barbara Orban is using a federal lawsuit to challenge the ticket quota system used by the Tampa police. The suit stems from a 2000 incident when Orban rear-ended a BMW with her Mercedes. It was a minor incident, but the Tampa police officer at the scene explained to Orban that he was forced by department policy to issue her a careless driving ticket.
Instead of moving on, Orban, 51, investigated further and found that this policy involves a direct financial incentive to the police. Florida is unique in taxing insurance premiums to pay police pensions. For example, an individual who pays a thousand dollars to insure his vehicle would pay $8.50 into the fund annually. This premium skyrockets, however, for each traffic ticket received. An eight percent increase last year, thanks to additional tickets written, added an extra $245,000 into the fund.
Orban charges that this financial incentive is used to force officers to maliciously prosecute drivers. Police Chief Stephen Hogue has denied the department has a quota, but retired officers beyond Hogue's reach have insisted that there is. Retired Sergeant Pete Pomponio filed a sworn affidavit last week saying he "advised" officers to write eighty citations in order to "meet expectations" on their evaluation.
"If I force an officer to write X amount of tickets in order to get a good evaluation, and the tickets make the city money, I'm enforcing a quota system," Pomponio said.
A police lieutenant's August 15 email discusses the use of ticket averages "as a guide to evaluate lower producing officers." So far, Orban has spent $50,000 on her suit. The original ticket was for $100.