Earlier this week we learned that North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper Jeremie Meisel had resigned amid an allegations that he’d been writing fake tickets.
Today I report at Watchdog that Meisel, through his attorney, is disputing the fake tickets accusation and says the real reason he left is because of an arrest/tickets quota the Highway Patrol says doesn’t exist.
Meisel’s legal counsel, Bismarck attorney Chris Redmann, says his client was not writing fake tickets and called the Highway Patrol’s presentation of the matter “incredibly unbalanced.” He said the real culprit behind Meisel’s resignation are arrest quota policies, which, the Highway Patrol says, don’t exist.
“Jeremie was not falsifying reports, issuing illegal citations, or even inflating numbers,” Redmann told Watchdog in response to an emailed inquiry. “That’s evidenced by the fact the prosecutor’s office declined any and all charges.”
“The reason that we are declining charges is that based about the statute and the facts of the case we do not believe that we could secure a conviction,” Burleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha wrote to the BCI agent in charge of the investigation according to the Jamestown Sun.
“Jeremie is a Trooper who truly valued ‘quality of enforcement over quantity of enforcement,’” Redmann continued. “Unfortunately for Jeremie though, the notion of quality over quantity is a novel and rejected concept within the Highway Patrol command structure despite their own mission statement of ‘providing high quality law enforcement services.’ Because of his focus on ‘quality,’ he was put on a ‘hard’ quota system for not issuing enough administrative traffic tickets; essentially he wasn’t meeting the Highway Patrol’s de facto quota standards.”
The quotas issue is a sensitive one. Back in March I broke a story about a memo issued by Captain Brian Niewind, who commands troopers in the southeast region of the state, which set specific numbers for arrests and tickets for violations like speeding, seat belts, DUI violations, and drug arrests.
To most people that certainly sounds like quotas, but the Highway Patrol says it isn’t. “A quota is a hard number that does not fluctuate,” Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Tom Iverson told me in march. “A quota suggests a number that you ‘must’ achieve, or there will be consequences.”
Except, the problem is, there are consequences for troopers who don’t meet their goals-not-quotas for speeding tickets and drug arrests, etc., etc.
“There could be what we call our action report, so written warnings might be issued,” Capt. Brian Niewind told Valley News Live last month. “On top of that, it might be suspensions and or termination from our organization.”
Also, a Highway Patrol official told the Bismarck Tribune that they are pursuing policies to tie merit pay increases to the goals-not-quotas. “The idea would be to reward high performers with the maximum possible merit raise of 4 percent, according to NDHP Capt. Aaron Hummel,” reported Andrew Sheeler.
So the Highway Patrol says they don’t have arrest/citation quotas because quotas have consequences if you don’t meet them, but they do have goals for specific numbers of arrests and citations and troopers who don’t meet those goals can lose merit pay increases and even be suspended or fired.
And now we have a trooper who is saying that happened to him.
Is Meisel telling the truth about the supposedly faked tickets? I’m not sure I have enough information to say, and his attorney would only provide me the comments I quoted above, but the prosecutor couldn’t find enough evidence to prosecute.
But I don’t think we need some more scrutiny on this goals-not-quotas issue. Is this really sound policy? Is the Highway Patrol handling it appropriately? And how do the troopers themselves feel about operating under such a policy?