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Upstate law enforcement agencies call bill banning quotas unnecessary

By Daniel J. Gross

Upstate law enforcement leaders say a bill that would bar agencies from setting ticket quotas for officers is unnecessary because they don't have quotas.

An S.C. Senate bill banning the imposition of quotas was unanimously passed in the House last month. Local law enforcement officials say most agencies don't have such requirements, despite a public perception to the contrary.

Officials with the S.C. Highway Patrol, as well as sheriffs in Cherokee, Spartanburg and Union counties, say they do not have ticket quotas. Police in the city of Spartanburg, Duncan and Wellford also say they've never imposed quotas on officers. 

“We don’t tell officers how many they can write or how few. Some write as many as they can all day, others only may write a few,” said Maj. Art Littlejohn, patrol division commander for the Spartanburg Police Department. “They can do whatever they want to do as long as they’re working.”

Union County Sheriff David Taylor said he would rather the legislature focus on issues such as DUI laws and the local government fund, not quotas.

"That is something they don't need to be wasting time on. … We know what our job is, and it's not keeping up with ticket quotas," Taylor said.

Taylor said he's more concerned about the loss of two deputies, two jailers and a dispatcher due to the state failing to provide funds to the county.

"I don't know of any agency that has a ticket quota. If that's all they got to worry about, there's a problem," Taylor said.

But some residents said they feel officers are trying to meet quotas even if it's not official policy.

"I've been pulled over a couple times. … They're lying," said Bobby Rodgers, a Spartanburg resident. "They're wrong. If you're doing something wrong, they should pull you over. They shouldn't just make up something to pull you over. Then it's your word against theirs."

Resident Fred Smith agreed. "I've been pulled over. I was going down the road one Sunday going to church. I came around the curve … and the police stopped me and told me I was speeding. … I wasn't even speeding," said Smith, as he pumped gas at Palmetto Gas and Food in Spartanburg.

Smith said when he told the officer he would contest the ticket in court, the officer opted to write him a warning instead.

"There's a bunch of it going on," he said. "Police need to be stopped from doing this stuff."

Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said officers might pull someone over because of something small, but it's an investigative tactic, not a way to meet a quota.

"There's no mandate that you write a certain number of citations or a certain number of warnings. We don't have a written policy or even an unspoken rule," Mueller said. "We never want to take away an officer's discretion."

Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright agreed that writing tickets should be left up to deputies.

"I think those quotas are bad because it makes you write tickets you would normally write warnings for, so we just don't do it," he said.

S.C. Highway Patrol deputies don't have quotas either, said Lt. Roger Hughes of the S.C. Department of Public Safety. "We expect our troopers to take appropriate enforcement action when they observe motorists violating the law, whether it is through a warning, ticket or arrest," Hughes said in an email.

State Sen. Doug Brannon, R-Landrum, said ticket quotas do happen in some departments, and that the bill was "a step in the right direction."

"We didn't spend an inordinate amount of time on this bill. It didn't eat up a day. It didn't eat up an hour," Brannon said. "We are working on funding the local government fund and fixing the roads, but when something little comes up, we don't push it aside."

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