The traffic ticket controversy seems to be gaining momentum.
“Quota or no quota?” that is the question.
A question that was recently examined in a top-notch W5 investigative report called “To Serve & Collect.”
According to the report, Winnipeg is the traffic ticket “quota” Capital of Canada.
Another negative moniker now being used to define a City already plagued with its fair share of dubious title distinctions such as the Murder, Robbery & Violent Crime Capitals of Canada.
When it comes to Police Management, the “Q” word is about as taboo as the “F” word. It’s a word “they” will just never say.
Former Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill was clear on the issue “As far as I’m concerned, we’ll always look at traffic enforcement as a safety issue.”
Objective analysis of McCaskill’s statement might lead an intuitive person to a contrary conclusion.
It’s no secret the City’s 2012 operating budget indicated that the WPS intended to collect an additional 1.4 million dollars in ticket revenue from traditional enforcement. (Front line officers handing out tickets.)
At the time, McCaskill explained the target wouldn’t be met by police brass setting “quotas” for front line officers, but they would be raising “expectations.”
In March 2012 McCaskill was quoted in the WFP indicating; “A quota basically in my mind is that, ‘You’ve got to do it, that’s your minimum.’ No. It’s sort of an expectation, sort of a measurement, and that’s it. It’s not a ‘You must.’ It’s a ‘We’d like you to try to do that.’ If they don’t get it, nobody is going to be coming to them and saying they’re in trouble. It’s not going to happen.”
I’m sorry Keith, that was either a big fat lie or your message got skewed somewhere between your office in the PSB (Public Safety Building) and the supervisor’s meetings held throughout the Police Service.
I was at one of those meetings where one of your Divisional Commanders shared your “vision.”
Call it whatever you want, front line officers were to be told they were expected to issue a minimum of one (1) traffic ticket per every ten (10) hour shift. Supervisors were expected to keep statistics and monitor the number of offence notices each officer issued. Officers that failed to meet Police Service “expectations” were to be singled out for a discussion with their supervisor regarding their performance issues.
Contrary to Chief McCaskill’s assertions, a discussion with a supervisor regarding a perceived performance issue is a negative consequence.
Supervisors were also expected to deliver the message that failure to meet Police Service “expectations” could have significant negative career path implications. The threat from Police Management was not ambiguous, write traffic tickets or good luck in the next promotion competition.
I personally failed to see how the “building relationships” mantra fit into the directive to persecute both the public and the front line Police Officers who didn’t buy into the “vision.”
Winnipeg Police Association President Mike Sutherland had his own take on the issue; “If the traffic enforcement situation becomes more focused on revenue, and inappropriately focused on revenue, as opposed to public safety, then I think it undermines the public confidence and relationships we’re trying to build.”
Sutherland gets it and so does Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, who indicated he disagreed with the idea of connecting traffic enforcement to revenue targets. According to Chu the Police should not use the “powers of the state” to make money because, as he put it; “That’s not the purpose of why we’re out there. We’re out there to keep the streets safe and not to make money.”
The truth is enforcement of the Highway Traffic Act in the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg has evolved into a dark, immoral form of surreptitious taxation used to supplement the bottom-line.
Public Safety, education and awareness are all novel excuses fed to the press by Police Brass to justify the new aggressive traffic enforcement approach the Police Service has taken.
If it wasn’t about the revenue photo radar vehicles wouldn’t be set up in speed reduced school zones on Sunday afternoons or in speed reduced construction zones when there is no construction going on.
If it wasn’t about revenue the Police Service would not be calling out off duty Police Officers and paying them time and a half for ten hours to do traffic enforcement.
When you do the math, the Police Service is paying each of these officers approximately $700 for their days work. If they write fifty (50) tickets per day at an average of $200 they are generating $10,000 in gross revenue.
With numbers like this, it’s not hard to see how we got here.
In comparison, supervisors in the Crime Division & District Detective Offices constantly struggle in their efforts to receive authorization for anti-crime projects that might incur overtime or the need to call out off duty investigators.
Robberies, Commercial & Residential Break & Enters and Gang Crime have all apparently become secondary considerations in the evolution of Policing in Winnipeg.
If it wasn’t about revenue traffic fines would not be so incredibly outrageous. Ten (10) km/h over the speed limit $181.50, fifteen (15) km/h over $246.25 & twenty (20) km/h over $312.25. How about failing to signal a turn $143.75 or failing to wear a seatbelt $299.65.
I truly sympathize with any hard-working teenaged kid working for minimum wage who gets nailed with a traffic ticket with a three-hundred dollar price tag.
As a front line supervisor I whole heartedly rejected the notion that officers under my command had to hand out a daily, or even weekly number (quota) of traffic tickets. These officers swore an oath to serve and protect the citizens of our City. Their primary function should be to respond to priority calls and to detect and apprehend the criminals who prey on the public in our crime ridden City.
If they managed to find the time to write a ticket I applauded their efforts.
Generating revenue by persecuting commuters and the general public is a misguided approach that undermines the integrity of the entire Police Service.
In 2008, a total of 25,000 traffic offence notices were issued by the WPS.
In 2011, that number ballooned to a total of 57,000.
When you assess these numbers it becomes clear that holding career path over employees heads is an effective way to achieve “buy in.”
It’s simple mathematics; objectives + expectations + perceived threat = significant enforcement revenue = traffic ticket word games = quota = denials = liar liar.
Quotas, objectives or expectations……same shit, different pile.
The lies, deception and continued abuse of Winnipeg motorists has become so overt that it’s attracted the attention of investigative reporters from W5, the longest running television newsmagazine program in North America and most watched program of its type.
The time has come to return to a more simple time in Policing.
A time when a Police Officer stopped a car and cut the driver a break with a warning or stern lecture. An interaction that was often educational, appreciated & respected.
A time when a seat belt ticket cost you $40 and not a weeks wages.
A time when front line cops were expected to patrol your back lanes looking for criminals doing B&E’s or damaging your property.
A time when people in the “chain of command” were cops and not “bean counting gumbys.”
It would be my hope that Chief Clunis pays heed to Chief Chu’s words of wisdom; policing is not, and should never have become a money-making proposition.
It’s time to stop playing traffic ticket word games and start letting street cops do what they were always intended to do, be street cops.
It’s time for the “liar liar” culture to change.
Post featured in the Winnipeg Free Press “Blog of the Week”