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Stops by quota are antithetical to the Constitution

Jan 06, 2012 Stops by quota are antithetical to the Constitution

Image from National Institute of Standards & Technology.

In law school, a criminal law professor one day joked about police claims that they don’t have arrest quotas, and then at once hilariously and pathetically took the role of a police supervisor asking his subordinate: "Where are your minimum thirty traffic tickets for the month?"

Do police feel they have quotas to justify their jobs and salary? Just ask Howard County, Maryland, police, whose department received a federal grant that the police chief confirmed "‘mandated that an average of 2-4 citations must be written per hour on each of these details by each officer or future funding may be withheld.’" (Thanks to a listserv member for posting on this story.) If that is not a quota, then what is?

But wait. The situation gets more pathetic. According to the Baltimore Sun, a "December 2010 stat sheet obtained by The Baltimore Sun includes a handwritten notation advising county officers of ‘a prize’ for boosting traffic stops 60 percent. This memo was not used in the court case" that led District Court Judge Hantman to dismiss a drunk driving charge in a courthouse up the road from me.

This story alone should be enough to end the practice of too many judges, jurors, and prosecutors (of course) who ascribe extra credibility to police officers merely because they wear a uniform. The uniform does not add credibility any more than my changing my name to John Coltrane makes me an astounding sax player. A vast majority of people lie and exaggerate. Police are people, so a vast number of them also lie and exaggerate. Sad but true.

Congratulations and thanks to criminal defense lawyer Mark Muffoletto, who had the information and insight to issue a records subpoena that obtained the above-described quota smoking gun that led to the dismissal of his case before Judge Hantman. This story is fodder for compelling compliance with more of such records subpoenas in other jurisdictions.

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