RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With more drivers expected out on the Commonwealth’s roadways this Labor Day weekend, Virginia State Police (VSP) focused its efforts on the safety of motorists statewide.
But former law enforcement officers Sean McGowan and Daniel Garasimowicz say ticket quotas – a practice where police departments require officers to issue a certain number of tickets over a period of time – shouldn’t be a part of that mission. McGowan works as the Virginia Police Benevolent Association’s (PBA) Executive Director, while Garasimowicz serves as the president of the PBA’s Virginia State Police Chapter, and they’re calling for legislation to ban the practice across the state.
According to VSP Richmond Division Public Information Officer Sergeant Dylan Davenport, local troopers have responded to approximately 107 motor vehicle crashes from Friday, Sept. 3 to early on Monday, Sept. 6. Preliminary information also revealed that VSP Richmond Division troopers had arrested nine individuals for driving under the influence and assisted roughly 184 disabled motorists.
That’s the kind of public service that McGowan and Garasimowicz said needs to continue, without the added pressure of quotas.
“Not meeting a ticket quota is not an accurate or fair representation of doing your job,” McGowan said. “These officers are fully trained. They go through an extensive academy, and this is local and state. They go through an academy, they go through a field training process. By the time they come out of that, they know when it’s appropriate to place a citation, write a ticket, or to give a warning or to just talk to the person, even just a verbal warning.”
They’ve been leading the charge as the Virginia PBA works with Sen. Bryce Reeves to draft legislation that, if passed, would ban the practice of ticket quotas throughout the Commonwealth, something that is already illegal in several states.
McGowan and Garasimowcz argue that a ban setting minimum standards of citations that law enforcement officers are required to write in a given amount of time does not prevent such officers from doing their job, but instead bolsters public safety.
“During my 13 years as a state trooper, there were times in certain offices that I worked in where the supervisors would tell you you needed to meet an average, an area average for that office. If you did not, repercussions could come upon you,” Garasimowicz said. “No trooper or officer’s hand should be forced to write a certain amount of summonses or uniform summonses. We believe it should be the trooper’s and officer’s discretion.”
At the end of September, 8News obtained a memorandum sent out by a supervisor with the VSP in the Williamsburg area. It read, in part, “There is no reason you should not be writing 5 tickets minimum on a typical day (that’s one every two hours). If you are on free patrol, you should be writing more if you want to remain on free patrol.” A spokesperson with the law enforcement agency said that VSP does not have ticket quotas.
Since then, 8News has obtained another memorandum, this time sent out by a supervisor with the Alexandria Police Department to a Traffic Safety Section officer. An excerpt from the letter is below.
In 2021, the officers, supervisors and commander of the Traffic Safety Section (TSS) met to determine a minimum standard of production for an officer in the TSS. In order to justify a 10-hour work shift, all members of the TSS determined a minimum of eight (8) traffic stops and two (2) hours of enforcement at traffic compliant locations were the minimally acceptable production. As I have discussed with you on multiple occasions, these production numbers are not a “quota” for the unit.
The memo detailed the number of citations written by the officer in question per shift, and then went on to say that the officer would “be placed under a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) until such time as your monthly production numbers rise to the level of being minimally acceptable.”
McGowan, who worked for the Alexandria Police Department (APD) for more than two decades, said that this is something he experienced firsthand.
“It was always a goals-and-objectives or standards set out that outline what number of citations an officer should be expected to write, and it was certainly a number that you were evaluated on and you were expected to uphold and produce those numbers,” he told 8News.
However, a spokesperson with the City said that the Alexandria Police Department does not have ticket quotas.
APD is a 21st Century Policing organization, and pride ourselves in being the best, so we do have standards and those standards include not just ticket writing but actually interacting with the community we serve, creating moments to educate the community we serve, and providing the best police service we can. So although we have a quota on the minimum number of stops, the outcome of the traffic stop is up to the officer and the totality of the situation, which can just be educational and not just writing a ticket. This approach empowers officers to make the best decision in situations which will lead to our desired outcome, the preservation of life and property and a community oriented police force.
Still, the Virginia PBA continues to work on a measure to make sure ticket quotas are not forced upon law enforcement officers throughout the Commonwealth.
“Whether or not a department admits to or says they do or do not have quotas is not our concern,” McGowan said. “Our concern is getting legislation through that prohibits quotas.”
McGowan also argued that a ban on ticket quotas would allow law enforcement officers from agencies throughout the Commonwealth to better protect Virginians.
“The officer needs to have that discretion to make that decision that serves public safety and serves the community which in they’re working. That officer knows better than anybody else what’s important there and what needs to be done to fulfill that job and provide the public safety,” he said. “The number of tickets is arbitrary. It has no real basis in true police productivity, given what is expected now from the public and the legislation on what officers are expected to do.”
Since 8News reported on the Virginia PBA’s work to advance a measure that would ban ticket quotas, McGowan said he has received feedback from several law enforcement officers throughout the state in support of such efforts.
Although the legislation is just in its draft form, McGowan said that repercussions for breaking the ban on ticket quotas, if passed, could include civil penalties or an investigation by an outside agency, such as the FBI.
As Labor Day weekend comes to a close, Virginia State Police continues to encourage drivers to obey all posted speed limits, be mindful of the conditions, use seat belts, eliminate distractions and move over when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle alongside the road or highway workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.