The L.A. City Council this week decided to give 11 current and former LAPD officers $5.9 million after they alleged they were ordered to write a certain amount of traffic tickets. The cops were suing for allegedly being forced to do something contrary to the law. But the city decided to settle. With your money.
Chief Charlie Beck sounded defiant in his reaction to the settlement of two lawsuits, however, saying that a previous court win against the city for the same ticket-quota allegation proved that folks just don't understand how it works:
The department said that officers were told to spend 80 percent of their time “enforcing Vehicle Code violations that could lead to serious injury or death.”
That, argues Beck, is not a ticket quota:
It is unfortunate that this case cost the city hard-earned taxpayers money. The goal has always been to improve the productivity and accountability of our officers in order to reduce serious and fatal traffic collisions
But sue the officers did. Two won a $2 million award in 2011. That, Beck says, made fighting the claims of the 11 additional plaintiffs more difficult, even though he maintains the LAPD was in the right.
All were from the LAPD's West Traffic Division. The department states:
The jury in the first lawsuit interpreted this as an unlawful quota and determined that the officers were retaliated against for not meeting the productivity goals. This case involving the eleven WTD officers now being settled was filed after the jury award of $2 million in the first case.
What's wrong with this picture? First you paid for a b.s. traffic ticket. And now you're paying, through your tax dollars, because it was wrong.
We do not agree with the original jury's findings, unfortunately the large jury award in the earlier court case made settling this case the most prudent business decision.
Despite the chief's righteous stance, the LAPD says it has “taken steps” to ensure that “appropriate measures” are being used to measure traffic cops' productivity.
As far back as 2001 some in City Hall were concerned about allegations of ticket quotas. Too bad it took 12 years and nearly $8 million of our money to finally figure it out. Then-Councilman Joel Wachs said this in a council motion:
For as long as anyone can remember, there have been rumors and allegations that traffic ticket quota system exists within the Los Angeles Police Department. Recently, the Police Protective League charged that a quota system for traffic tickets and arrests does exist, and that it is used to reward or punish police officers. It could be another urban myth and misconception, or one of City Hall's nasty little secrets. Regardless, if the rank-and-file police officers and the public simply believe that it's true, there is a serious problem that must be dealt with immediately …
We hope that means an end to so-called “ticket traps” that have officers sitting on ass watching a street until someone makes a quotidian violation for failing to read the fine print.
(And you spineless L.A. County Superior Court commissioners and referees who defer to cops no matter what in traffic cases — with no evidence but an officer's word — shame on you. Remember burden of proof? Even cops themselves are saying here that they were essentially wrong).
We would also like to see the department focus more on ensuring traffic flow in this most congested city in the United States. Half the time LAPD cops issuing tickets are impeding flow themselves by blocking usable lanes with little regard for the rest of us.