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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)

While I think the verdict was right, us poor tax payers have to pay the $2 million award plus the cost of defending the LAPD. Looks like it is win win situation for both crooked and honest cops not to mention Lawyer/Judge scam machine. What is needed is a system where we punish those guilty with termination. Too often tax payer is money is used to defend government incompetence using the best legal minds out there. Oh by the way the Glendale Police have their own Cherry patch on Tujunga Canyon Boulevard. Never got caught but I see many innocent people getting caught. And very very expensive. In fact avoid Glendale if you can. They are brutal.

Does this mean the citizens being targeted by the scum bag cops can sue for damages too?

why do these officers deserve money? Lazy union municipal workers exploiting a crooked judicial system. total crap. 2 million. what crooks!

i dont get this story at all.

This is an incredible obstruction of justice. I was a victim of obvious ticket cherry picking two years ago as I am sure many other people were. They caught me going 29 in a 25 zone. My insurance rates went way up and still are way up. This is wrong, where is our money back?!?!

Major company provide what is called "Auto Insurance Clearance" reduce the rates for long-time auto insurance customers. They just now reduced my rates! need to save money gas prices is killing my travel

Are they going to give back the money they robbed?
What a Police force, you hire them to protect you and then they feel the right to shake you down. How can we protect ourselves against them hiding in the darks and their lowly attacks.

You get 2 million dollars against a quota system...
How much do you win against a rigged set-up court
trial ?...
How much do you win against tampering with evidence
from the scales of justice and covering it up ?

protect their authority and serve themselves

$2 million? So instead of just West side getting fleeced, now all the tax payers are.

Good for those officers to take a stand and having the moral bravery to do the right thing. No matter what the public thinks or says about the two Officer's good job men.

Good job men way to have moral bravery.

I see LAPD officers, the finest of law enforcement, driving by running red lights speaking on their cell phone, doing the california roll pass stop signs. What kind of sick example is that? Parking backwards at a Subway on red marked curb, in front of a fire hydrant to go inside sit down talk and eat for an hour. These clowns will never enforce themselves. They ticket minorities and people they personally dislike for what ever (probably racist) reason.

What about all the civilians victimised by this scam?

I disagree with the quota system, because it place added pressure on the honorable Officer's of our Department to write ticket's that may or may not be need to be issued, because of the fear of job security...

The officers get money??!?!?! what about the motorists that were issued tickets based on these quotas?? and while these guys spend all days trying to write 18 tickets how are they supposed to fight REAL crime.

This is going on all over the country. It has been for years but now that tax revenue has decreased becuase people are losing jobs, spending less, home foreclosures, etc. it has become more prevalent. My question is what liability does the police dpeartment have regarding unlawful stops being made to meet these quotas? If these guys got $2 mil what about the citizens whose 4th amendment rights were violated?

Ok, so what about the REAL victims? The CITIZENS! The laws against quotas are there to protect citizens, not police officers. When will all those citizens get their fines back, and insurance premiums back, and traffic school fees back, and punitive damages for their rights being infringed?

Public safety/service stopped being about public safety or service (and started being about revenue) a LONG time ago. This holds true for most, if not all, government "services". DMV, permits, etc...

This subject has already been visited in California; what causes accidents. I'm sorry but I can't remember the details about the source but the state I do remember. Two reports were generated by two different traffic enforcement entities. One looked at the distribution of traffic enforcement and the other looked at the causes of accidents. It was startling apparent that there was an inverse relationship between the focus of traffic enforcement and the cause of traffic accidents. Most accidents and fatalities were a result of failure to yield (running into someone) or single car accidents (drunks running into large objects). Despite this fact there had been little research on accident prone intersections to focus the attention of enforcement officers. The greatest enforcement effort had been on freeways which in fact on a miles traveled basis were the safest place to be. The painfully obvious conclusion was that traffic enforcement was focused on those offenses that were easy to observe, were less likely to be contested and which yielded the greatest revenue. Today it is far easier to wait for the radar to beep while the officer is tending his Facebook page and it is hoped that the car seen in his rear view mirror is in fact the generator of the beep. I expect maintaining constant surveillance on a accident prone intersection results in an officer's slow Twitter responses. Prior to the advent of Smartphones some officers kept portable DVD players handy so that they could watch movies while waiting for traffic offenders.

Be cautious when you hear police officials discuss accidents and excessive speed. Very often an accident has multiple contributory factors. Someone who is drunk and dies in a spectacular accident may have the cause of the accident be attributed to excessive speed which in fact was due to drinking. Had the drunk been sober he likely would not have been speeding. Despite all of the bugaboos invented by the police the fatality rate is steadily dropping despite an increase in vehicles. This remains an "Inconvenient Truth" to law enforcement.

If the public knew that traffic enforcement was driven by well analyzed traffic data it would likely earn the traffic cops some begrudging respect. What if other departments operated in the same way? What if the public works department failed to prioritize water main repairs by size but instead used some arbitrary rationale? Anyone could build their own humorous scenarios of public dis-functionality.

The source of all evil is likely the city government who only sees the police department as a source of ticket revenue and pension obligations. Hopefully they are not trying to solve the pension problems on the backs of the public.

they are EVIL and the fact that this website would not post my previously CRAFTED COMMENT is just proof to same!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

This doesn't surprise me in the least. It happens everywhere, not online in LA. You may not be aware of it in your town, but I assure you, it's everywhere. Quotas are set, albeit illegal, by police departments all over the country. As a long haul trucker, I notice far more cops out and busy at the end of the month, filling their "non existent" quotas.

I've seen cars with drivers who are putting make-up on, driving erratic and dangerously, talking on cell phones, texting, the list goes on and on. I'm not one who will shy away from calling the authorities if someone is blatantly dangerous however I'm often told that there is "no one available" for these calls. Meanwhile, I watch police pull over cars around me who are obeying traffic laws.

Police departments all over the country are corrupt. LAPD is just one who doesn't do a very good job at keeping it hush hush. When you have several "bad" cops, and a few good ones, the good ones are bound to stand up and say "this isn't right!".

I say Bravo to Officers Howard Chan and David Benioff.

I can’t believe the majority of these comments! I guess the majority of you feel you are above the law. Do you allow your children to break your rules?

If these two motor officers, were in the private sector and under performing they would be fired for not performing. But what’s worse is because of the kinder and gentler politically correct society, these two under performing officers are rewarded by the courts for doing the bare minimum, which is paid for by taxpayer’s dollars. It would be more beneficial to eliminate their positions and place them in a crime car, where they would have to work. But most likely they would suddenly get injured on the job and retire on a disability.

I can bet you that these two police imposters’ former supervisors were inept, like them. Unfortunately, these supervisors were not doing their job ensuring these clowns did their job like they’re paid to do so. Therefore, under performance became the norm for these two clowns and others, until a captain with a work ethic was put in charge of this unit and tried to fix it.

Captain Nancy Lauer career: Senior Lead Officer (desk assignment), administrative assignment at Parker Center (desk assignment), Communications division (desk assignment), Internal Affairs Division (desk assignment), Watch Commander (desk assignment), COP Liaison Section (desk assignment), Management Services Division (desk assignment), Captain West traffic (desk assignment). Questions ?
Give the patrol cops another million. They deserve it.

Stay away from the Pico/La Cienega area, because when they are not all parked at Nicks eating, they lie in wait like jackals in the surrounding sidestreets!

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