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New York Post

 

Ticket Trouble

September 21, 2010

By Heather Mac Donald

In the name of fighting “ticket quotas,” state lawmakers recently struck another blow against effective policing. Apparently the cop-bashers (and their allies in the police unions) won’t rest until they’ve reversed the policing revolution that has made New York the safest big city in the nation.

The state’s existing anti-quota statute was already foolish: It banned the imposition of any consequences on a police employee for failure to write a certain number of traffic summonses over a specified time period. Now, thanks to an amendment pushed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and state Sen. Eric Adams, the statute covers every kind of law-enforcement activity -- from arrests to stops for suspected criminal activity.

So if a captain in a neighborhood plagued by bootleg sales of loose cigarettes and DVDs tells his commanders to press for just five more illegal-vending summonses a week, he could run afoul of the law.

If a precinct has seen a spate of gang shootings by thugs hanging out on corners littering, drinking, jaywalking and generally intimidating passersby, a commander may be unable to set as a goal for his unit five summonses a month for quality-of-life misdemeanors.

To see how ludicrous the anti-quota law is in practice, consider the ongoing flap over alleged illegal “quotas” in the 81st Precinct in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Back in April, a disgruntled police official from the 81st secretly recorded his captain telling his commanders to step up traffic enforcement. The captain suggested as a ballpark figure that the precinct’s day tours write a total of 20 traffic summonses a week -- five for double-parking, five for parking in a bus stop, five for driving without a seat belt and five for driving while using a cellphone.

This is a piddling “quota.” Depending on the precinct, 20 to 90 officers work a day tour. So, in the smallest precincts, the goal of 20 summonses works out to one ticket per cop for the week. In the largest precincts, it’s less than one ticket for every four officers -- 20 summonses over a combined 450 days of work.

This, in a town where double-parked cars and trucks block streets every day, creating potentially fatal obstructions for fire engines and ambulances. Where drivers talking on cellphones constantly put pedestrians and other drivers at risk. Where cars parked in bus lanes make bus rides even more agonizingly slow.

But according to The New York Times and the new law’s sponsors, the tape shows that the NYPD maintains illegal “quotas.” In fact, a fair reading of the law would find no violation until a cop is actually disciplined for doing nothing; urging commanders to try to get their squads to do more should be kosher.

More important, the law itself is simply absurd: It shouldn’t be illegal to reprimand an officer for doing nothing on his beat.

Stripping managers of their capacity to reward or penalize performance guarantees waste. And cops are human, too -- there will always be officers who prefer to do as little work as they can get away with.

Yet a civilian parking agent whose sole job is to write parking tickets can’t be disciplined if he writes no tickets at all but simply wanders the streets munching donuts. His supervisor may politely suggest that the agent ticket a few illegally parked cars but has no power to insist. The anti-quota law doesn’t even permit a poor evaluation of the agent’s performance for failure to write a single ticket.

And now, thanks to Adams’ amendment, the same limits apply to all police enforcement actions.

Bad enough that Albany should be dictating policing policy to New York City under any circumstances. But this giveaway to the forces of inertia and lawlessness is just the latest attack on CompStat policing, the groundbreaking managerial breakthrough from the 1990s that has given New York the most sustained crime drop in the country.

Under CompStat, the department rigorously analyzes crime patterns and holds commanders accountable for crime on their watch. The capacity to measure outcomes and set productivity goals is essential to CompStat’s success.

But the anti-cop activists pretend that policing that sets appropriate benchmarks for itself means that “rights” will be trampled. The unions, meanwhile, are chafing under the pressure to continue lowering crime. An unfortunate alliance of the two groups is promoting the idea that CompStat has led to the systematic manipulation of crime statistics -- a charge for which they have yet to produce credible evidence.

Albany should leave New York policing to Commissioner Ray Kelly and his hardworking strategists and commanders.

And here’s a suggestion to the public: If you don’t want to run afoul of a “quota” -- whether for running a red light, parking illegally or drinking in public -- don’t break the law.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/ticket_trouble_pXZMPHjafLQDDjXsLoAMPN

 

 
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