A police officer has been fired after going against a city policy that encouraged cops to write needless tickets and harass citizens. Justin Hanners alleged that the police in Auburn, Alabama, were encouraged to write frivolous tickets in order to raise revenue for the city.
Auburn police officers were rewarded for writing a specific number of tickets and making a set number of arrests, Hanners alleged. Hanners said his commanding officer, Sgt. Trey Neal, told him that officers had to have a minimum of 100 “contacts” a month. The term contact is a euphemism for ticketing or arresting an individual.
Officers that didn’t get the 100 contacts were punished with mandatory overtime and threatened with job loss, Hanners charged. Cops that wrote more tickets were rewarded with gift certificates for steak dinners and other incentives.
Tickets Used to Raise Revenue
Hanners believes the motivation for the policy was to raise revenue for the city in the form of fines. He believes the quota system is a perversion of police work.
The system distracts officers from dealing with serious crime, Hanners said. He believes officers would not be able to investigate crime because they were too busy writing tickets.
Hanners also believes the quotas are unfair to lower income people, who are more likely to have contact with police. The officer noted that fines of several hundred dollars can devastate a lower income family. He said he was encouraged to write tickets with large fines in order to raise money for the city. Hanners didn’t say it, but the policy could also be construed as racist because African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be lower income and targeted by police.
A Scary Video
A Reason TV video about Hanners and his complaints has received well over a hundred thousand views on YouTube. Even before the video was posted online, Hanners was fired by the Auburn Police for violating a gag order. It is clear that the department violated his First Amendment Rights.
Hanners said his superiors tried to bribe and threaten him to keep him from going public with his complaints. The City of Auburn has denied his charges, but the video contains a quote from Sgt. Neal that sounds like a threat.
In one part of the video, Hanners alleges that he and other officers were encouraged to go out and arrest people who were drunk but not violating the law to fill their ticket quotas. Auburn is a college town, so they had no shortage of drunks to pick up on Saturday night. Such a scenario reminds us of the young college girl who was assaulted by six alcohol agents attempting to bust her for buying bottled water, as Anthony Gucciardi reported early this month.
Far from Alone
Hanners also learned that he is far from alone in complaining about such policies. When he approached the Police Benevolent Association (a union) for help, Hanners learned that the association had received similar complaints from many other cops on different departments.
Hanners’ complaints are frightening because they show how law enforcement is being corrupted and perverted in America. Small towns have long used ticket writing and speed traps to raise revenues, but now the practice is spreading to larger communities; Auburn is a small city of 50,000 people. Even more frightening is his allegation that fines are now being used as a source of revenue.
Worse, a good case can be made that such quotas are a method of driving lower income people and minorities out of town. Poor people that cannot pay the tickets will avoid gentrified communities. Similar policies include the City and County of Denver’s ban on camping in public (directed against the homeless) and New York’s policy of stopping and frisking anybody officers think is suspicious.
Another problem that Hanners points out is that quotas effectively drive intelligent and conscientious police officers off the force. Such individuals quit because they are disgusted with the policies, leaving only bureaucrats and crooked cops on the force.
Officer Hanners is to be commended for exposing this terrible policy. Hopefully some community that wants real law enforcement will give him a job. One has to wonder how many other law enforcement agencies have implemented this horrendous quota system.