The Bismarck Tribune editorial board weighs in today on a store I broke and have been following for a couple of weeks now. Namely, the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s insistence that specific “goals” set for arrests and citations, enforced by merit pay increases and/or possible termination – aren’t quotas.
“If someone is speeding, it is a police officer’s prerogative to pull over that person,” the Tribune writes. “However, tying merit pay raises to number of traffic stops effectively turns a goal into a quota and damages relations between law enforcement and the public.”
That’s a great point, but the Tribune editorial is missing some important aspects of this story.
Like the fact that state troopers don’t just face the possibility of losing merit pay increases for failing to hit goals. They could also be disciplined with reprimands, suspensions, and even termination.
Or, more importantly, that the quotas being set by the Highway Patrol aren’t just for speeding tickets which the editorial seems to suggest. Here’s an excerpt of the original memo I obtained sent out by Captain Bryan Niewind (see the original here). You’ll note that mentioned alongside typical traffic stop citations like speeding and failure to use a seat belt are drug arrests, DUI arrests, and a goal-not-quota for 30 arrests in the broad “criminal” category.
It’s bad enough to have goals-not-quotas for speeding tickets, mere misdemeanor infractions. It is something far more sinister to take a carrot-and-stick approach to pressure troopers into making a certain number of arrests for more serious crimes.
As the Tribune notes, if someone is breaking the law then they should be arrested and punished accordingly. But is it sound policy to put our law enforcement officers into a situation where they feel their careers are at risk if they don’t make arrests?
And remember, arrests aren’t convictions.