11/21/2005Oregon: Judge Cancels Tickets Written for Police Profit
Gold Hill, Oregon judge angers mayor, police chief by throwing out quota tickets.
Gold Hill, Oregon's mayor, Sherry Hill (pictured), and police chief, Dean Muchow, are furious with a judge over traffic citations. On October 10, Municipal Judge Don Leahan either dismissed or discounted 35 traffic citations in 45 minutes on October 10. The majority were $97 tickets for failure to wear a seatbelt.
"Trying to fund a police department, or an officer, with tickets is an unauthorized tax on the public," Judge Leahan, a 25-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran, said. "It is contrary to the intent of the Legislature, and I'm not going to stand for it."
The judge had learned police stepped up the number of citations by 528 percent in an effort to bolster department revenue. If a defendant pleaded guilty, the judge only charged administrative fees, denying any revenue to the city.
Hill denies that she ever told Leahan the city intended to use traffic tickets to fund the hire of an additional officer. The police chief also denies the allegation.
Muchow, however, wrote in a September report, "A way to finance this officer, and also help pay for gas, citation books and other forms, would be through traffic and ordinance citations."
"Now they're lying or denying what they told me," Leahan told the South Oregon Mail Tribune. "I talked to the mayor twice and she told me they were trying to fund a third officer. For her to deny that is self-serving, unprofessional and untrue."
It's refreshing to find a judge who sees these tickets for what they really are, revenue generation," said Eric Skrum, communications director for the National Motorists Association. "At the same time, it is ludicrous for the police to attempt to justify this as anything else other than a money grab."