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LAPD officers say they were punished for not making ticket quotas

August 5, 2011 |  8:14 am

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef014e887a6712970d-800wi

LAPD officers who failed to meet traffic-ticket quotas were berated and punished by supervisors, according to an attorney.

Ten Los Angeles motor officers have sued the city alleging that their supervisors retaliated against them for resisting traffic-ticket quotas.

Attorney Matthew S. McNicholas said the officers would present evidence "that certain officers were prevented from taking their selected vacation despite being more senior officers and were denied overtime."

Officers who failed to meet daily and weekly ticket quotas were regularly berated in a small room known as the "room of doom," he said.

He added that "when one officer began detailing the quota enforcement in the daily log, he was immediately reprimanded and interrogated by supervisors and that this represented a pattern of ongoing conduct."

Attorneys for officers Philip Carr, Timothy Dacus, Kevin Cotter, Peter Landelius, Kevin Ree, Kevin Riley, Josh Sewell, Vincent Stroway, James Wallace and Jason Zapatka -- all of the West Traffic Division -- filed suit a week ago in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The LAPD did not immediately comment on the allegations.

Ticket quotas are illegal under state law because they can pressure police to write spurious tickets to meet the goal. The line between setting a quota and pushing officers to increase their productivity is a delicate problem for field supervisors.

In April, a jury awarded a pair of LAPD officers -- also assigned to West Traffic Division -- $2 million after determining that supervisors had retaliated against the officers for complaining about alleged traffic-ticket quotas.

Howard Chan and David Benioff, both veteran motorcycle officers, sued the department in 2009, alleging that they had been punished with bogus performance reviews, threats of reassignment and other forms of harassment after objecting to demands from commanding officers that they write a certain number of tickets each day, according to the civil action.

That case dated back to late 2006, when command of the traffic division was handed over to Capt. Nancy Lauer. Chan and Benioff alleged in their lawsuit that Lauer and her sergeants and lieutenants made it clear to officers that they were expected to write at least 18 tickets each day. The number of tickets an officer wrote was recorded on their performance evaluation, the suit alleged.

The officers said that supervisors ranked them against other officers based on the number of tickets they wrote and cars they impounded, also a violation of state law.

Attorney Shaun Dabbe Jacobs, who argued the case for the city, tried to convince jurors that the department had simply established broad goals rather than specific quotas, and that supervisors were trying to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities.

The officers testified they were ordered to scrap regular patrol assignments and were sent instead to specific streets where they were more likely to catch motorists committing moving violations. Though not illegal, being sent to those "orchards" or "cherry patches," they said, reinforced the belief that hitting ticket targets trumped other aspects of the job.

Attorney Gregory Smith, one of the attorneys representing the 10 officers and who also prevailed in court on behalf of Chan and Benioff, had no immediate comment on the current case.

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-- Andrew Blankstein
Twitter/@anblanx

Photo: LAPD officers at police headquarters. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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