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

April 11, 2011 |  5:19 pm

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

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