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Officers who alleged LAPD traffic ticket quota system win $2-million judgment

LapdA jury on Monday awarded $2 million to two Los Angeles police officers in a civil suit against the city and the department alleging there was a "quota system" for writing traffic tickets on the city's Westside.

Officers Howard Chan and David Benioff, veteran motor officers with the LAPD's West Traffic Division, sued the department in 2009, alleging that their captain mandated each motor officer to write 18 tickets a day, according to the suit.

In addition to the quota, officers were told the tickets they gave out had to be for "major movers" such as speeding, lane straddling or running a red light -- offenses that could each generate revenue of several hundred dollars each.

The civil court jury sided with the officers by a vote of 11 to 1. The damage award was for loss of reputation and specific employment actions against the officers by the department affecting their careers after they reported the misconduct and refused to meet the quotas.

"We're very hopeful that this will put an end to fleecing motorists on the West side of Los Angeles," said Benioff's attorney, Gregory Smith. "Quotas are a direct violation of the vehicle code and this case was about these officers being asked to break the law."

The city attorney's lawyer on the case, Shaun Dabbe Jacobs, who defended the LAPD in court,  argued that the department had broad goals rather than specific quotas and that the intent was to reduce injuries and fatalities on the road.

John Franklin, a spokesman for the city attorney's office, said Monday the department was reviewing the case and "weighing our options."

Former LAPD Cmdr. Paul Kim testified that factors such as weather, the price of gas and paramedic response times played a larger role in affecting traffic fatality and injury numbers.

In testimony, officers said they were assigned to specific "laser certified" streets from regular traffic patrols to increase their ticket output. These locations were referred to as "orchard" or "cherry patches."

"These kind of quotas undermine the confidence of citizens in the Los Angeles Police Department," said Chris Brizzolara, the lawyer for Chan.

--Andrew Blankstein
Twitter: @anblanx

Photo: Police officers outside LAPD headquarters. Credit: Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (82)

Good. We should not put up with harassment by people WE PAY. I don't favor lawsuits, but it is time we stand up to harassment, overpaid politicians, etc. They are suppposed work FOR us, not against us.

I'm shocked.......

Thank goodness these fine Officers took a stand against the LAPD Captain who attempted to make them write a certain number of tickets. While I am sure there is no shortage of violations to write, being told to write a certain number of tickets changes the entire face of this.
I hope the Captain who did this is disciplined severe manner.

Congratulations men. I’ve banged the drums for well over decade about the quota system. However it is not only against the “vehicle code.” It is UN constitutional. Below is my video on “taxation by Traffic Citation”

LACO Sherrif is doing the same thing right now on the "Snake" part of Mulholland in Agoura using decoy cars and spotters giving tix to people and not even telling them where the infraction happened. Lots of lying going on to make a buck for LACO Sherrif right now during the weekends. LA Times should come out on Sundays and watch it go down.....

You were motor officers! If you were not writing tickets, what in the hell were you doing? Motors are about the laziest cops on the planet.

Fantastic! So as tax payers we're getting screwed both ways... By getting tickets and with this settlement that our tax dollars will be paying.

When am I going to get my last ticket canceled? The one I went to court for and for which the cop lied on the stand about what happened?

I got my license when I was 18 y/o in 1995 and got the first ticket within that year, and learned that cops were just doing their job, meeting the quota.

It is April 11th, 2011. Can someone explain why this kind of corrupted system is still going on in Los Angeles?

The city political system is corrupted - conspire to generate revenue
The judicial system is corrupted - granting $2 million to the cops who commit corruption! Why? They should just fire the commanding officers and put them in jail for committing conspiracy and racketeering.
The law enforcement system is corrupted - why this type of behaviors going on in LAPD?
The taxpayers get to pay for all of these corruptions! Why?

This your mini police version of bell. So much more human corruption to uncover. What next. Why I parked my spaceship in front of home depot and was cited for illegal aliening.

A corrupt police force? What a shocker!

Maybe to naive fools.

Why don't they go back and give refunds to everyone those officers ticketed instead of awarding him 2 million dollars.

18 movers a day to keep the motor? My, my...how things have changed. Glad I'm retired and collecting that nice pension. Whatever happened to "5 to survive"??

This type of quotas is very common in all departments. Unfortunately they can't call it quotas. They may use all kinds of different names but the bottom line a quota is a quota. Haven't you heard, if it walks like a duck......duh...it's a duck.

We all know that the ticket scam is only the tip of the iceberg with the LAPD. The public rightly has the opinion that more often then not the police are breaking the law more often than the criminals...all in the name of protecting the citizenry, of course. But does that make it any less reprehensible?

Traffic Tickets = Taxes

If the traffic tickets were truly meant to reduce accidents - then the revenue from them would be directed 100% toward improving road conditions, signs etc. (or possibly even driver education programs, medical services, etc.)

What a joke! Lazy motorcycle officers don't want to write tickets! Isn't that what motor officers are supposed to do? Poor fellas it must be tough to have take home vehicles, hazard pay, half workdays, and do half the work of regular cops. LAPD and LA City is a joke. Typical lazy union city employees.

I have no sympathy for the LAPD.

Was the captain punished for demanding quotas? Who actually will be the ones to pay these fines... the taxpayer? How much graft and corruption is there really, in the LAPD?

nice. it's always a good move to sue the city if you are a cop or a fireman. it saves you the effort of having to wait for your massive pension.

good job!

How much for a rigged set-up court trial in orange county ?...
How much do you win for court personnel misconduct in
tampering with evidence from court record ?...
How much for rigged scales of justice ?

So these two get all that money for shaking us down? How about returning it to the people you stole it from...the motorists. These guys got paid to write tickets. We got ripped off! Thieves.

Who was the captain? And doesn't the captain get fired for breaking the law.

Sounds like we have two officers who are lazy.

I know of two such "orchards". One is Pico and Overland. There's often a a bike cop sitting at the south-west corner way back off the road behind some bushes. I think he looks for people making turns on a red. Then theres the real money "orchard" at Prosser and Olympic (west bound). They sit up on the sidewalk behind a tree and laser people coming down Olympic, then pull out to block the lane and write the ticket. Then, back it up on the sidewalk, rinse, repeat. I thought quotas were legal, based on how often I see these spots worked.

Next up, the Santa Monica Police and their parking ticket scams.

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