The Traffic Ticket Quota Issue

A sense of déjà vu.

Back in 2010 I wrote a poston this issue.  I will reference two paragraphs from that post and remember, this was written back in 2010:

The recent attempt by the Winnipeg Police Service to impose traffic quotas was cloaked under the guise of overall officer performance, attempting to ensure that officers perform all aspects of their job.  The monitoring of officer performance in and of itself is a good strategy.  However, such a strategy will only succeed if the monitoring of traffic enforcement statistics is part of an overall performance monitoring strategy.  If traffic enforcement is the only statistic being measured while other aspects of their performance such as the numbers of arrests made are not, officers soon realize that it’s not about performance, it’s about revenue. 

As with many approaches timing is everything.  The Service’s recent foray into the traffic ticket quota minefield at a time when photo radar and traditional enforcement revenues are down and the Service is facing a budget shortfall might suggest that the need for additional revenue has trumped performance and road safety.    

It is now two years later and the Winnipeg Police Service is doing an encore performance.  Again they are facing a budget shortfall and are looking to the revenue side to address the issue and the revenue side means more tickets.

In the words of George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

His Lips Were Moving

Recently, in an attempt to not raise property taxes the Sam asked all city departments to look at their budgets and come up with cuts.

According to news reports the Winnipeg Police Service was asked to come up with somewhere between $3 Million and $5 million.

There were, no doubt, provisos attached to the budget cutting instructions: you can’t cut the number of police officers;  you cannot cut the number of staff (which is already far below the acceptable ratio); you cannot cut the number of cadets; and above all you cannot ground the helicopter.

Once you look at the list of things that would not be politically palatable there are not many areas left (other than perhaps overtime) that could be cut that would yield savings in the $3-$5 million range.

The other option of course is to increase revenue.  Police departments don’t have many options in terms of sources that can dramatically increase revenues except fines.  Traffic fines to be precise.

According to a CTV report,  when Mayor Sam Katz was asked about a recent Winnipeg Police internal memo concerning the need to increase traffic enforcement the mayor indicated that the city is not behind the move by the Police Service to increase the number of offence notices issued (and the resulting increase in the revenue accrued to the City).

Apparently the mayor actually said, “To be frank with you, I’m not aware of that at all”.

Although I was not there and did not see or hear him say those words I’m willing to believe he said them and probably even with a straight face, but,  his lips were moving….. 

If a police department is given instructions to cut the budget but cannot touch the areas most likely to yield savings then the revenue side is the only option and traffic tickets are the prime revenue source.

“..not aware of that at all”,  Mr. Mayor?  What did you think would happen – the police would call on the friendly neighbourhood tooth fairy to deliver the goods?