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Ticket quotas at the sheriff's department?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Ticket quotas at the sheriff's department?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
February 3, 2009

Remember my joke a while back about the deputy who was asked by a driver if his department had a quota system? His reply was, "We don't have a quota. We can write as many tickets as we want."

OK, OK, it was a joke. Only maybe it's not a joke. At least the part about writing as many as they want is a joke.

But what happens if a deputy doesn't write enough tickets? "Oh," you say, "but then he has a 'quota'!"

Apparently, what happens at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) is that, if you don't write enough tickets (and tickets of the right type), then you may just find yourself on probation, subject to disciplinary action, or even terminated.

What about the deputy who was hired to protect and to serve the residents of McHenry County and all with whom he came in contact? If he is under pressure to make his quota, then is he likely to start "pushing the envelope" to write enough tickets? After all, he has rent or a mortgage to pay, mouths to feed, tuition to cough up, just like the rest of us.

So they don't really have quotas at MCSD. Instead, what they have is a "non-quota performance standard."

Is this just lipstick on a pig?

One of the Department's command staff, and reportedly the person who came up with the idea for a "non-quota" quota, is attending a three-month FBI Staff and Command School. All expenses paid, of course, and you know who is paying them. But he is needed back in sleepy, ol' Woodstock to settle some squabbles about non-quotas, so MCSD is going to fly him home for a meeting on February 23 with the FOP. No, that's not Fine Old People. The FOP is the Fraternal Order of Police. The union.

Now, why would the deputies' union be involved? Because a "non-quota quota" system is unfair. If deputies go out and do their jobs (you know, protect and serve), that's quite likely to result in their descending into the Red Zone. Too much time in the Red Zone means probationary status. And, if you don't get your "numbers" (enough of the right tickets) up, then you can kiss your job at MCSD good-bye.

How about statistics at MCSD? Are "No Valid" Hispanic arrests on the rise? What are these?

A "No Valid" arrest is an arrest for no valid driver's license. How does a deputy figure out which car might be driven by a person without a valid driver's license? The deputy just runs the license plate of every vehicle he sees, whether or not the driver is committing any traffic violation. From the in-car computer it is possible to determine if a driver's license associated with the registered owner of the vehicle.

But how does the deputy know whether the registered owner is actually driving the car? He doesn't! So then he looks for any possible violation (and hardly anyone can drive three blocks without committing at least one, even if only very minor, traffic violation). The deputy then makes the traffic stop. Quite likely, he never would have stopped that car for such a violation, if he didn't think the driver might not have a license.

Is it right to run the plate first and then to look for a violation? Or should the deputy only run a plate through his in-car computer if he has observed a traffic violation and intends to stop the car? In this case, the deputy properly wants to know if the registered owner of the car is wanted. Knowing this in advance could save the deputy's life!

Oh, about the "Hispanic" part. Do deputies target license plates to run through the computer to persons appearing to be Hispanic or from Latin America?

Running a detailed analysis of arrest records and corresponding arrest reports might reveal an interesting pattern to traffic stops, especially of relationships between race, nationality and arrest. Of course, deputies would have to admit that they ran the plate first and then began following the vehicle until they observed a violation and exactly what violation it was. But the time of the computer use and the time of the traffic stop would disclose that.

We do not want a fearful public in McHenry County, and we definitely do not want a fearful group of deputies out on the road. Fear causes people to make mistakes. It's a hard enough job without throwing in a new Fear Factor.

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