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Cops won’t cop to use of quotas

By David Donovan, South Carolina Lawyers Weekly

South Carolina’s House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill April 26 that would prohibit police departments from requiring officers to meet quotas for ticket-writing—not that many departments will admit to using quotas as it is.

House Bill 4387 would bar quotas for citations, but will still allow departments to evaluate an officer’s performance based on “points of contact” with local residents. The bill passed 99-0 and now heads to the Senate.

One of the bill’s sponsors, attorney Justin Bamberg, represents the family of Walter Scott, who was fatally shot by a North Charleston police officer in 2015 after Scott attempted to flee a traffic stop. Bamberg argues that the police officer, Michael Slager, wouldn’t have stopped Scott if not for a police department policy requiring a certain number of traffic stops per shift.

It’s not clear how widespread the problem of ticket quotas is since departments will almost never admit to employing them. The state’s highway patrol and other local agencies have denied using quotas when asked by reporters.

Some claim that departments continue to use them informally when evaluating officers, however. The executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum told NPR in 2015 that at least some of the 18,000 police departments across the country “probably” do have quotas.

Given the bill’s unanimous passage in the House, it’s unlikely to run into any roadblocks in the Senate. But it’s unclear what effect the law would have in reigning in a practice that no one will confirm even exists.

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