If you believe that L.A.'s army of parking ticket writers works under a quota system, and we know they do, you're right.
At least if you think the words of retired traffic officer Larry Randolph have the ring of truth to them. In a story told to the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative, which has been critical of L.A.'s ticketing system, he said quotas mostly come into play when employees are working overtime.
Confirming his allegations to L.A. Weekly, he broke it down like this:
During regular shifts officers with the Parking Enforcement branch of the L.A. Department of Transportation usually are expected to issue 20 tickets in an eight-hour shift, although the word “quota” is not used, he said.
However, he says, at certain times of the year, when LADOT is allegedly looking to eat up its allocated budget because of a use-it-or-lose-it system, costly overtime is instituted, and officers are expected to write a certain number of tickets to help justify that overtime.
“When they're paying you time-and-a-half, they want to see a minimum of eight tickets,” Randolph told us.
The magic number is 32 tickets in a four-hour overtime shift, Randolph contends. The overtime quotas happen the most at the end of the calendar year, in December, and at the end of the fiscal year, in May and June, he said.
And, in order to carry that off — it's not easy finding so many violators — officers resort to writing up what he describes as borderline violations: a bumper barely hanging over a red curb, being legally close to a time expiration, parking in a forbidden zone that's not at all clearly marked.
If officers working overtime don't bring in the citations, they won't immediately get more overtime, Randolph said. And overtime adds up. As City Controller's data shows, there are traffic officers making six-figure salaries even though their base pay is nowhere near that.
There's incentive to write borderline tickets, Randolph says, but there are no consequences for an officer who has been caught writing bogus ones. The department figures that even borderline violations won't be challenged by most people, Randolph said.
“They feel people will cave in and not adjudicate them,” he said. “They hope that.”
He retired in February and has decided not only to speak out but to put his name to his claims.
“They knew I would open my mouth,” Randolph says. “But it's all true. I'm getting text messages from former fellow employees saying, 'Why would you want to tell the real truth here?' I wanted to go on the record so that the public knew about it.”
Jay Beeber of the Parking Initiative says, “He's not the only one who has reached out” about quotas at the LADOT.
The group is outraged by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti's proposal to hire more traffic officers, a move it alleges is aimed at generating millions of dollars in new revenue for the city.
“When the city says we're going to make this much off this department, that's the incentive to write tickets,” Beeber tells us. “They know for a fact there are bogus tickets being written. In fact you're rewarded for doing it. You get more overtime.”
[Added at 4:49 p.m.]: The LADOT sent us this response to Randolph's claims:
LADOT does not have quotas for parking citations. Overtime is for special events traffic management support, year-round.