Should traffic cops pay be based on tickets?

From CNN: 

It's a theory many drivers have held since their first speeding ticket, that citations are somehow connected to a special perk for the officer writing it.

Now, a memo among Atlanta police officers has reignited such suspicions.

"The mayor has designated traffic court and ticket revenue for future pay increases," Atlanta Police Union President Ken Allen wrote this month.

Some residents scoffed at the idea.

"I'm probably going to switch from sales and join the police force in that case, if that's the way it's working," one resident, Ken Miller,told CNN affiliate WSB-TV. (more)

While some fear that tying pay to ticket-writing productivity, some believe there are very good reasons for doing so:

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor requires his officers to make an average of at least one traffic stop a day. He said many important arrests stem from traffic stops.

"That's where we get most of our narcotic arrests. We get a lot of warrants we've been able to serve," Villasenor told CNN affiliate KGUN. "There's benefit from traffic (stops) that have been proven in city after city. I'm just saying we can't forget that's part of our job." (same source as above)

I think most people drive over the speed limit a good deal of the time, so there's probably little need for the police to fabricate false speeding tickets and no doubt it has some effect, however small, on the speed at which people drive. It also leads to other arrests for more serious crimes.

So, why not?

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Comment by H3xx on June 28, 2013 at 12:47am

Wouldn't a better idea be to create and addon device that made it so that vehicles could drive themselves, without violating any traffic laws? This is probably too much to ask for, but basing police pay on tickets would make sure that cops are doing their job, and if there were an effective, and anonymous way to report overreactions and abuse of power, we could ensure that they do their job properly. It would also lift some burden off of average taxpayer's shoulders. The main problem with law enforcement at the moment, is that there is no counter system to keep it in check, which is why the NSA can spy on you, and how Policemen can go so long abusing their power before IA steps in and stops it. Citizens should have the power to counter their behavior without interfering in their actual job.

Comment by H3xx on June 28, 2013 at 12:51am

@Gallup's Mirror:

Cops are some of the worst traffic violators I've ever seen. At least where I live, they drive on average around 30 miles over the speed limit, tailgate, I often see them run the less busy intersections without even slowing down. And there's not an effective way for citizens to put a stop to it.

Comment by SteveInCO on June 28, 2013 at 9:11am

Take speeding for example. First Pullover: Warning. First offence: $500 fine. Second offence: $1000 fine. Third offence: $2,000 fine. Double it every time. Once it hits $16,000: seize the car. On $32,000 loss of license. If they're driving a car without a license or a car that belongs to someone else: 30 days in jail the first time, 60 days the second time, 120 days the third time, and so on.

Maybe everyone speeds because the goddamn limits are set too low and everyone knows it.  Of course that makes it easier for cops to find speeders, since everyone is made into a criminal by the system.  Do you really want such harsh penalties for arbitrarily imposed laws? 

You sound an awful lot like the "law and order" types you no doubt abhor here.  One joint?  Six months in jail!  Two joints....?  THAT will stop people from doing drugs!

I'll agree with you about running stops etc., with the caveat that THAT happens, at least around here, because we frequently see lights timed so that traffic backs up a mile on a major highway or arterial because they get only 30 seconds of green while the cross street enjoys a minute of utterly traffic free green.  So although the law itself is not arbitrary and has good rationale, in combination with downright stupid decisions on how to time lights, its effect is to greatly increase frustration.  To the point where people come up with conspiracy theories (they are hoping to make more money writing serious tickets, they are hoping people will burn more gas idling in traffic, etc.) on why things are so dumb.

You go on to mention driving in the passing lane, and I would wager that is the biggest single cause of road rage that isn't direct provocation.  I will regularly see somebody "parked" in the left lane of I-25 with a line of 20 cars waiting for him to get the fuck out of the way.  It's taking him five minutes to pass a group of three cars in the right lane.  Yet this is the one rule you never see enforced.

Comment by Unseen on June 28, 2013 at 9:48am

Playing devil's advocate, since we know from personal experience that most people drive at least a little over the limit most of the time, asking officers to issue some minimum number of traffic tickets will help minimize their time at Duncan Donuts or Starbucks. When I lived in Portland, there was a Starbucks at a major corner in a part of town with lots of high end condos. There would be anywhere from 2 to 5 officers in there at a table or a couple of tables almost all the time. I wondered why since it didn't strike me as a high crime area. A high value area, perhaps, but not high crime. 

Anyway, they were not out there solving crimes or stopping speeders. Perhaps a ticket-writing requirement with reasonable and not excessively-high goals would have resulted in a bit more policing and fewer kaffee klatsches. 

Comment by Strega on June 28, 2013 at 10:05am

In Germany, there are no speed limits on the motorways (autobahns) and they seem to be able to avoid crashing.  There are probably sub-rules, such as no under-21's on the motorways, but other than that, their system appears to work for them.

In the UK, there are speed cameras on motorways and on major roads.  These work by triggering a camera flash if you pass between two points faster than would be feasible if you are only overtaking legally.  It is automated, to such a degree that the penalty notices are issued automatically, although you do have the right of appeal.  The camera system can also be loaded with information regarding stolen vehicles to enable police to intervene when one is spotted.

The 70mph maximum speed limit is probably outdated now, as cars have become more sturdy and powerful.  Even so, and assuming it is still a valid restriction, why are cars built to do speeds of 130mph or more if that's never an option?  Why can the cars not be fitted with a 'damper' so that if the car exceeds the limit for longer than reasonable, the car automatically cuts back down to 70mph?

An automated system may enable some of those traffic cops to retire, or spend their time doing more practical activity.

Comment by Gregg R Thomas on June 28, 2013 at 11:55am

@ Strega:

I suppose a public lashing is out of the question then.  Would never work either?

For breaking speed limit rules?

Comment by Strega on June 28, 2013 at 12:07pm

Laughs, they use the cane in Singapore for a multitude of offences - the strangest of which I think is for foreign tourists who overstay their visa periods.  Take a look at the wiki entry here - I linked directly to the salient part, but the entire page is interesting.  I also understand that it works quite well as a deterrent!

Comment by Unseen on June 28, 2013 at 12:27pm

There is no reasonable comparison between marijuana use and motoring. The former is harmless and should be decriminalized. Nobody dies from smoking pot and the smokers effect their own bodies.

Not so fast.

First off, most of the time marijuana users smoke it. Putting smoke in one's lungs can't ever be a good idea. What benefit could it have for the lungs over and above breathing just fresh pure air?

Secondly, stoned can't possibly be the best way to operate heavy equipment. 

Finally, I hope we can agree that the American Lung Association, whose primary concern is in the prevention and treatment of cancer says this:

Marijuana smoke contains a greater amount of carcinogens than tobacco smoke. In addition, marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, further increasing the lungs exposure to carcinogenic smoke. Marijuana use is not only associated with adverse physical effects, but also mental, emotional and behavioral changes.

People who smoke marijuana frequently, but do not smoke tobacco, have more health problems and miss more days of work than nonsmokers. Many of these extra sick days are due to respiratory illnesses.

Patients considering using marijuana for medicinal purposes should make this decision in consultation with their doctor, and consider means of administration other than smoking.(source)

Comment by Gregg R Thomas on June 28, 2013 at 12:27pm


Singapore is not comparable to the US nor the UK for that matter.

Comment by Gregg R Thomas on June 28, 2013 at 12:39pm

In my view incentivizing the enforcement of laws with the proceeds from that enforcement will always lead to corruption of the system.


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