Conflict of Interest in Traffic Ticket Quota System
The term “conflict of interest” comes to mind when taking into consideration the use of a quota system for police officers in terms of the number of traffic citations and arrests they make on a monthly basis. While it may be true that police budgets and the justification for the use of a police force within a particular area are based on the number of citations and arrests the fact remains that given the infrequent nature of crime and law violations in certain jurisdictions a fixed quota cannot be implemented since crime itself is not fixed to a certain number within a particular area. By implementing a quota system for traffic citations and arrests this places undue pressure on police officers to find any means possible to fulfill the quota which may lead to certain cases of police abuses where the number of unfair citations and arrests increase in number (Petersen, 1971). A number of studies examining cases of police abuses have shown that the implementation of quota systems in several district precincts in numerous states is one of the primary reasons behind the abuses in the first place (Petersen, 1971). In fact it was even noted that in some cases acts of false citations and unlawful arrests increased when quota systems were implemented in particular stations. What must be understood is that local police forces are there to protect the peace, and as such they have the inherent responsibility to ensure that the actions of particular individuals stay within legal boundaries. In previous years, before quota systems were implemented, police officers often gave warnings to individuals before arrests were made, now people are often arrested without prior warnings as a direct result of the need for police officers to fill the number of quotas they have within a given month. It was even noted that an increase in the number of discriminatory practices within the police force occurred as a direct result of the quota system. This involved unfairly targeting neighborhoods and communities with African Americans, Hispanics and immigrants where a generalized belief has developed within the police forces that such neighborhoods have increased opportunities for arrests. It is based on this that it can be seen that the quota system leads to acts of unfair citations and arrests, discriminatory practices and the encouragement of police abuses of the legal system.
As a police administrator having a system of positive competition in place would help in reducing in the number of unfair citations, police abuses and unfair arrests that are prevalent under the quota system. This would result in the local police force concentrating more on aspects of public service to the community rather than focusing on the amount of citations and arrests that they have to give out each month. Unfortunately, the inherent problem with establishing this particular type of system is the fact that it has the potential to create a less productive police force. One of the advantages of the quota system is the fact that it encouraged greater levels of police activity within particular areas. If such a system were to be changed the end result would be infrequent police patrols and the subsequent prevalence of minor crimes and abuses by the general population within particular neighborhoods and areas. It must also be noted that while the quota system increases levels of productivity it does create detrimental effects on the overall cohesiveness of police forces within a particular area since it encourages negative competition between various units which would result in distinct problems in communication, joint action and other forms of team work. Aspects related to positive competition on the other hand do encourage better teamwork and joint action however this comes at the cost of the overall level of productivity seen when the quota system is utilized.
Petersen, D. M. (1971). INFORMAL NORMS AND POLICE PRACTICE: THE TRAFFIC TICKET QUOTA SYSTEM. Sociology & Social Research, 55(3), 354.