It is against state law for police agencies to have ticket quotas but a lot of people who receive citations might suspect otherwise.
On Tuesday, the city of Los Angeles gave them reason to be skeptical. The city council awarded 11 current and former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers a total of $5.9 million in a settlement over allegations they were retaliated against for resisting ticket quota orders. That brings to $10 million the amount of taxpayer dollars awarded to officers in ticket quota cases.
The deal settles two lawsuits filed in 2011 that alleged Captain Nancy Lauer required officers in the West Traffic Division to write at least 18 tickets each shift. Four out of five tickets were to be for major violations. When officers in the motorcycle unit resisted or missed their goals, their alleged harassment included being denied overtime assignments and having their schedules jacked around.
The officers claimed in their lawsuits that they were taken off regular patrols and directed to locations where they were more likely to snare moving violators. Their lawsuits followed a jury verdict in a 2009 civil case where officers made similar claims.
Veteran motorcycle cops Howard Chan and David Benioff sued in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging they had been punished with bad performance reviews, threatened with reassignment and generally harassed. They did not fared well on the lists that ranked officers by the number of tickets they wrote and vehicles they impounded.
The jury voted 11-1 to award them $2 million. The city had rejected an offer from the plaintiffs to settle for $500,000.
Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times, “Unfortunately the large jury award in the earlier court case made settling this case the most prudent business decision.” The department and Lauer said the officers were only given guidelines, not quotas, and that there was no retaliation.
Lauer, who joined the LAPD in 1985, assumed command of the West Traffic Division in 2006. The Times said Lauer testified that there was “apparently some confusion” about a “goal” being misinterpreted as a quota. She was promoted to commanding officer of Criminal Gang/Homicide Division (CGHD) in 2011.
The city’s decision to settle the suits came after incumbent City Attorney Carmen Trutanich lost to challenger Mike Feuer decisively in May elections.