Atlanta police defend using traffic tickets to fund pay increases
(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 were outraged.
“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.
But Allen stressed that while revenue from tickets will be earmarked for raises, more tickets will not necessarily lead to higher raises.
“We’re not even asking anybody, or no one has made any suggestion, that any officer write any additional tickets than they already have,” the union president told CNN.
“The revenues from tickets already go to the general fund. What the mayor has suggested doing is … earmarking where these revenues are going for the future pay raises.”
Allen said revenues have decreased, but it’s largely because of the dismissal rates of citations and an inefficient court system. He said many traffic cases get dismissed because officers can’t make it to the scheduled court appearance.
“The citizens need to understand … we’re not running a ticket revenue stream just to get a pay increase. All we’re trying to do is correct the inefficiencies and hold those accountable for citations we’ve already written.”
But former police officer and TV judge Alex Ferrer said he’s concerned about the possible effects of linking ticket revenues directly to pay increases.
“Once you tie something to somebody’s financial earnings, they are motivated in a way that they are not motivated before,” he said.
But many officers say traffic stops yield a lot more benefits than just improved road safety and revenue.
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.”
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