12/6/2019Florida Cop Blows The Whistle On Ticket Quota
Former Hialeah, Florida police sergeant sues city after being fired for confirming the existence of a ticket quota in court testimony.
The city of Hialeah, Florida, has been boosting its revenue by forcing its police officers to issue more traffic tickets or face punishment. That was the claim made by Jean Paul DiPietro, a former sergeant who had been with the department for sixteen years until he offered support to Officer Juan Iglesias, who first revealed the ticket quotas in a 2016 lawsuit.
Then-Officer Iglesias said that Sergeant DiPietro punished him for failing to issue at least three citations per day, even though the state prohibits the use of ticket quotas. The sergeant explained that he was acting under direct orders, but after disciplining Officer Iglesias a second time, he had second thoughts. The sergeant stopped disciplining anyone over the number of citations issued. For that, the sergeant himself found himself reprimanded by the police chief.
DiPietro made matters worse for himself when he gave sworn testimony in the state lawsuit filed by Officer Iglesias over the quota. He confirmed that the officer was performing his duties well and that the quota was illegal. After this, the sergeant was reassigned to less desirable duties. In March 2019, the chief recommended that Sergeant DiPietro be fired on the grounds that he was twice late for work. Now the sergeant is suing for his job back, plus punitive damages, in federal court. He argues he cannot be punished for exercising his First Amendment rights in court testimony.
"As a direct, natural and proximate cause of the actions of defendant, plaintiff has suffered loss of professional standing and position; emotional distress; embarrassment; humiliation; and damage to his good name and reputation, all of which are injuries that are continuing and permanent," DiPietro's attorney, Dana M. Gallup, wrote.
The city argues that the sergeant's firing had nothing to do with his testimony in the ticket quota case. It also holds that the case should be thrown out on grounds of sovereign immunity.
A jury trial has been tentatively scheduled for November 9, 2020. A Florida court awarded Officer Iglesias $305 in lost wages, but the state court of Appeal in July ordered a new trial to consider expanding compensation by awarding Officer Iglesias non-economic damages.