In this week's Flyer, Bianca Phillips writes about an internal survey given to officers of the Memphis Police Department. Survey results were leaked to the Flyer, and some of the comments were illuminating.
Sure, there are the usual complaints about morale, crappy management, lack of advancement opportunities, poor equipment, etc. — the kinds of things you'd get in almost any company's internal anonymous survey. But, one aspect of the officers' jobs that drew much criticism was the statistics-based evaluation, in other words, a quota system for traffic tickets. Here's a portion of Bianca's story:
"They've started tracking officer's stats, from alarm citations to how many calls to report to arrest tickets," one anonymous patrol officer told the Flyer. "A felony arrest can take hours, and they're more difficult to come by. So if an officer has six felony arrests in a month, then he's going to be in the red zone, because he hasn't written enough alarm citations or traffic violations. And then he is counseled by his lieutenant."
The officer said the program deters officers "who love to sniff out big crimes and be a police officer." Williams agreed, saying it can also cause less mature officers to violate citizens' civil rights, because they're just looking to make an arrest and boost their productivity points.
This intrigued me, because I'm about to go to court to fight a traffic ticket for running a stop sign. I don't normally fight traffic tickets, and I've had a few through the years, mostly for minor speeding, i.e. 45 mph in a 35 mph zone.
So why am I fighting this one? Because it's totally and egregiously bogus. I'll explain:
I drive Peabody/Vance Avenue from my Midtown home to the Flyer's downtown office at least twice a day. I've been doing this drive for 20 years. I know that there's a four-way stop at Vance and Lauderdale. And I always stop.
A few weeks back, I was heading home for lunch, and I stopped at the intersection of Vance and Lauderdale. In fact, three cars stopped simultaneously at that intersection on that day — one approaching me from the east on Vance, wanting to turn south in front of me; one from the north, on Lauderdale, wanting to go straight in front of me. We all did the "wave the other guy through" routine. After a few moments, the guy across from me went first. I went second.
Imagine my shock and surprise when blue cruiser lights appeared in my rear-view mirror about 10 seconds later. The officer approached and said (I shit you not), "You know there's a stop sign back there, don't you?"
I said, "Yes, I do. That's why I stopped."
The officer said, "No sir, you totally disregarded that stop sign. You ran right through it."
I sputtered and looked at him in disbelief. I went through the whole scenario of the three cars, the waving, etc. No dice. This cop continued to insist I "totally disregarded" the stop sign, and gave me a ticket.
So, even though it's a pain in the butt to go to court over this, I'm doing it. I've even got a lawyer (who I'm sleeping with, by the way). And also married to. She's going to represent me in fighting this stupid injustice.
I have no idea whether this cop just wanted to mess with me or whether he had a quota to meet or whether he somehow(??) mistook me for another vehicle. But he's going to have to tell his tall tale in court. And I know I'm fortunate to have access to legal help; most people would probably just pay the fine, which may be the whole point.
I go to trial in September. I'll keep you posted.