Cop Fired for Speaking Out Against Ticket and Arrest Quotas

Auburn, Alabama is home to sprawling plains, Auburn University, and a troubling police force. After the arrival of a new police chief in 2010, the department entered an era of ticket quotas and worse.

“When I first heard about the quotas I was appalled,” says former Auburn police officer Justin Hanners, who claims he and other cops were given directives to hassle, ticket, or arrest specific numbers of residents per shift. “I got into law enforcement to serve and protect, not be a bully.”

Hanners blew the whistle on the department’s tactics and was eventually fired for refusing to comply and keep quiet. He says that each officer was required to make 100 contacts each month, which included tickets, arrests, field interviews, and warnings. This equates to 72,000 contacts a year in a 50,000 person town. His claims are backed up by audio recordings of his superiors he made. The Auburn police department declined requests to be interviewed for this story.

“There are not that many speeders, there are not that many people running red lights to get those numbers, so what [the police] do is they lower their standards,” says Hanners. That led to the department encouraging officers to arrest people that Hanners “didn’t feel like had broken the law.”

Former Reason staffer Radley Balko, now an investigative reporter for the Huffington Post and author of the new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, says that this isn’t just a nuisance, it infringes on public safety.

“You have a policy that encourages police to create petty crimes and ignore serious crimes, and that’s clearly the opposite of what we want our police to be doing,” says Balko.

Hanners repeatedly voiced his concerns through his chain of command, and the department responded that these requirements are necessary for increasing productivity.

Yet Hanners firmly believes that the quotas are entirely revenue driven.

“I had no intention of dropping it,” says Hanners, “This is a problem in more places than Auburn, and I think once the people know that they can hold their public officials accountable, it’ll change.”

The police chief singled out by Hanners retired this July, citing medical reasons.

About 7 minutes.

Written and produced by Tracy Oppenheimer. Camera by Alex Manning.

Music by The Jowe Head Band, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

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  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "It's a goal, not a quota!"

  • WTF||

    You know, that is the perfect illustration for "distinction without a difference".

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I notice that these spams seem to always be about females. Which leads me to scurrilous conjectures about what they are doing for that money.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    It's female privilege. Males don't make nearly as much for doing the same kind of "work" on the internet. It's just the stripcam matriarchy trying to keep men oppressed and seen as inferior nude models.

  • Hyperion||

    Exactly, let's call it something else, and then it's ok.

    Those aren't murder drones! They're remote controlled ensurers of world peace and harmony.

  • anon||

    You guys are learning Ray Kelley's language now.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I was making an affirmative-action joke.

  • Almanian!||

    So, RACIST!

    Why are you RACIST! Eduard?

  • Hyperion||

    Everyone at H&R is racist. Why else would we be posting on a site that Ron Paul would find interesting?

  • Killazontherun||

    I'm the raciest racist to ever race his way to Racistopiaville. Why does the sign say Gay Town?

  • Vote||

    The Chicken Little theory for Progs...

    "It's RACISM!!!"

    Finally the liberals and race whor's have diminished the word to little meaning. Add "Homophobe", "Bigot", TeaBagger" and "Wingnut" to the list of ineffective squeals, vomited by amateurs with weak, overused arguments, seldom based on facts!

  • Almanian!||

    Colt Peacemaker gun

    LGM-118 Peacekeeper missile

    And now the "Peace and Harmony" Drone.

    And man's growth and advancement continues...

  • Hyperion||

    Well, at least we now know that a cop can be fired for something.

  • Neilo||

    Sadly as this article shows, for doing his job right.

  • ||

    Balkoooooooooooo!

  • Almanian!||

    Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow

    /good old days

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Thank you *so much* for that image.

  • Hugh Akston||

    We all talk about kicking Almanian in the balls, but Radley's the only one actually doing something about it.

  • Almanian!||

    Hey!

  • SugarFree||

    Don't whine. Why else do you even keep those things around if we aren't supposed to kick them?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    A couple questions:

    Why do we only hear Tracy Oppenheimer's voice, but don't get to *see* her?

    Also, I wonder if there's anyone in Auburn, Alabama who sympathizes with libertarian causes who might help this guy? Does anyone know of anyone?

  • ||

    The ACLU?

    HAHAHAHAAHAA! I crack myself up.

  • Hyperion||

    Everyone in Bammy is obviously toothless and illiterate redneck racists. Or they wouldn't be in the South.

    So, there's your answer, they can't read, so how would they know about it?

    /blue state democrat

    But, seriously, I for one, don't know anyone in Auburn.

  • Floridian||

    I don't care for Auburn, but I like my truck.

  • TomJB||

    I live close to there due to work. Although I agree with the ridiculousness of the new policy in Auburn, I can, for certain, contradict one of Mr Hanners' statements. There *ARE* that many people running red lights down here. Its why insurance rates are so high and why when your light turns green, you need to wait for the 2 or 3 other cars who run their red.

  • Somebody else||

    Something tells me that a town that's the home of the Mises Institute might have a libertarian or two there.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    (That was what I was alluding to)

  • creech||

    Well, did the cop express any pro-Confederate views?

  • k0nane||

    Auburn resident and libertarian reporting for duty. I've seen Gary Johnson signs and Libertarian bumper stickers - so Institute aside, there's a few of us around.

  • wareagle||

    ah, the smell of progress.

  • Killazontherun||

    Her boss being concerned about the fuzzy definition of a hostile work environment these days?

  • Fluffy||

    Why do we only hear Tracy Oppenheimer's voice, but don't get to *see* her?

    Here you go:

    http://reason.com/people/tracy-oppenheimer/all

    She's really very pretty.

    Just like Ekins.

    I think we need to investigate the Jacket's hiring practices.

  • ||

    "What you are left with are....the bullies"

    For the FOP and police chiefs, and most citizens, this is feature, not a bug.

  • JW||

    It's just a few bad apples! It's not systemic at all!

  • ||

    Do the police have a dog shooting quota as well?

  • Hyperion||

    If they do, I think most departments around the country are meeting or exceeding the quotas.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Actually, the quota is higher than the number of dogs available to shoot. So they're discouraging anti-overpopulation efforts in order to create enough dogs to shoot.

  • gaoxiaen||

    They do pro bono work/ target practice at the local dog pound.

  • Locke||

    Excellent vid Reason! This practice needs to stop. That sergeant needs to get his ass fired. This isn't what police are supposed to do.

  • Hyperion||

    what police are supposed to do

    Protect the political elite class and terrorize citizens, apparently.

  • Locke||

    Yeah, that seems to be the goal.

  • Hyperion||

    We live in a seriously fucked up world.

    Most of the top headlines over at DR today, are about the antics of Weiner. I mean, I personally find the guy a little disgusting, but what kind of a world do we live in, when people are more disgusted by a guy who sends women pictures of his dick, than with a President who murders foreign women and children in drone attacks, and who has complete contempt for our constitution and laws?

  • Hugh Akston||

    What kind of a world do we live in where a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press?

  • Locke||

    This town needs an enema!

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Heh heh. Weiner antics.

  • Paul.||

    Now, had this same cop shot someone in the face during a traffic stop because he thought he saw a 'reach', he'd still be on the job.

    It's about priorities, people.

  • Agoraphobic||

    This cop has big brass ones ( and so does Balko, for that matter. How is he not getting harassed/arrested daily for what he does?) I hope someone takes his case and this stuff gets some traction.

    If we had more LEOs like him, we'd be in good shape. Dare I say if he (in his former capacity as a cop) ever came to my house, I might let him meet my dog? I have a feeling he lacks that reach-for-the-gun reflex in the presence of domesticated animals.

  • Paul.||

    If we had more LEOs like him, we'd be in good shape.

    Modern governments cast off talent like a kid throwing a frisbee.

  • Agoraphobic||

    If by "kid" you mean "president", by "throwing" you mean "launching," and by "frisbee" you mean "drone strike," then yes, I agree.

  • sarcasmic||

    This is why there are no good cops. They're not welcome within cop culture.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Hanners blew the whistle on the department’s tactics and was eventually fired for refusing to comply and keep quiet. He says that each officer was required to make 100 contacts each month, which included tickets, arrests, field interviews, and warnings.

    Cops are revamping the old Roman Empire policy of "tax farming." Once the Emperor got his cut, whatever the tax-man had was his to keep.

  • Sidd Finch||

    The loveliest village on the plains is not lovelier than Tracy. I haz a sad.

  • ||

    Uh....I thought ticket quotas were strictly verboten?

    Cant the receivers of tickets since this policy as in effect sue the dogshit out of the city?

  • Alice Bowie||

    This cop fellow put it perfectly:

    "Cops should interfere with people at the minimum while trying to go after the x% that ar crimals."

    It's sad that he got fired.

  • Anders||

    A bit surprised to see it in a small town. This is a big city trick like

    Stacking: Getting a suspect to have other (unrelated) crimes 'taken into consideration' before going to trial. Clears down the list of open crimes and the defendant is pleads them out to nothing.

    Re-categorizing: Rape becomes sexual assault, attempted murder becomes aggravated assault.

    Quick wins: Hand to hand drug busts etc.

    These are all common tricks to improve the stats for the brass. You want to see a reduction in crime - no problem Mr. Mayor! Watch this!

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Jeez, you'd think the police department that somehow didn't pick up on a man dumping large amounts of spike 80df at the busiest intersection in town would stop to think about their priorities.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    By the way, when are we going to get a Reason TV vid about the drug bust that nabbed 70 students in Tuscaloosa?

  • AlgerHiss||

    Most folks have no idea that ticket writing is a billion dollar industry: And we’re weak sheep for putting up with this nonsense.

    Several years ago, The National Motorists Association overtook the old AAA as the driving public’s best friend. (AAA became nothing more than an insurance company agitating for more government at all levels.)

    NMA is a calm, respectable voice of reason that usually shines the truth on issues such as speed trapping, checkpoints, red light cameras, speed cameras and the like. Their site is:

    http://www.motorists.org/

    And no, I don’t work for them. But I am a dues paying member.

  • jcwconsult||

    Thanks, AlgerHiss - glad you are a member and I wish we had more. I am a Life Member of the NMA in Michigan. We helped get a law passed here that prohibits ANY use of numerical ticket numbers in the evaluation of a police officer. Ticketing for revenue is ALWAYS 100% WRONG.

    It is illegal in Michigan (though still practiced in places) and should be illegal everywhere.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-NMA

  • AlgerHiss||

    The Auburn "police" department's website is:

    http://www.auburnalabama.org/p.....?PageID=96

    Every Chamber of Commerce enjoys knowing what everyone thinks of their cities. The Auburn Chamber of Commerce is:

    http://www.auburnchamber.com/

  • Jim Pook||

    I sent an email to the Chamber of Commerce and got this reply:

    Mr. Pook,
    We appreciate your email and are sharing all thoughts and concerns with our city manager, Charlie Duggan.

    Thank you,
    Jennifer Fincher

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    Gee, and here every cop I've ever had the misfortune of speaking to angrily insists that they DON'T have quotas to meet.

  • in4mation||

    What's the dog shooting quota?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Auburn sucks. I don't care for Auburn.

  • ||

    A friend at Auburn pointed me to a Facebook page that was set up for him 4 hours ago and now has over 1500 likes.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Drudge effect?

  • SteveThomas||

    Police officers do not "produce" anything. They are there to enforce the law, serve and protect the public. When the Chief says he wants to increase "productivity", he is admitting that they are exceeding their charter and being used as a revenue producing agency. That is a conflict of interest with the citizenry. Any police department that views itself as a source of revenue should be disbanded, and the village, town or city prohibited from having their own police force. That may place an added burden on the Sheriff's office, but it will send a much needed message.

  • Luddite||

    This, a thousand times this. Police do not make fucking widgets. There is no productivity to gauge.

    The only metric the cops should be working towards is: "is our town reasonably devoid of crime". Anything else is bullshit.

  • FoolishCop||

    We had quotas in the town I worked in, only they were called "performance standards." Quotas are illegal, performance standards aren't. And towns do rely upon the fees they generate, even budgeting for them. When we hd an unofficial slowdown -- you couldn't officially do that either, that was illegal too -- everyone got hopping mad.

    The town manager came down on the chief, who laid into his captains, and so on down the chain of command. The sergeants then became the henchmen. Some didn't like it, others got off on it. And you couldn't discipline for not writing tickets -- quotas are illegal after all -- but they could make your life hell otherwise. Reports were kicked back, sergeants rode your post looking for things for you to do. They would just bear down hard on anyone that didn't produce.

    I worked in a town that was smaller than Auburn and while we didn't have a number quite so high as 100 contacts a month, we still had to produce several tickets a day.

    Most cops don't want to issue if they don't have to. To a certain extent, the "standards" were to justify his existence. If he wasn't writing tickets, and wasn't making arrests, what was he doing for his pay? On the other hand, it did lead to cases that could have been considered harassment. While we tried not to hit the local resident too much -- they were the ones paying our salaries -- obviously you inevitably did.

    As one of our officers once noted, if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck...it's a quota!

  • darkflame||

    I used to go to Auburn University, it really is a quiet college town. I'm proud that this cop is standing up for whats right.

  • reason1984||

    In many communities the police are no more than armed tax collectors.

  • BrendaMitchell||

    what Jonathan implied I'm surprised that you able to get paid $8990 in a few weeks on the internet. have you read this site... http://www.Can99.com

  • rcbradstreet@gmail.com||

    My last year of undergrad at Auburn was 2010. I do seem to remember the sudden increase in insurance checkpoints (always at my neighborhood since there was a huge residential population and only one way to College Street, the main drag) and general police dickery.

  • chucktrotter||

    Am presently reading "Rise of the Warrior Cop." Drivers that believe they'll get the benefit of a doubt are usually fooling themselves. The "bean counters" run our police departments. A few hundred here and a few hundred there means bigger budgets for our police departments. I have seen traffic officers lie under oath in order to insure a false charge!

  • Smiddy||

    "He says that each officer was required to make 100 contacts each month, which included tickets, arrests, field interviews, and warnings. This equates to 72,000 contacts a year in a 50,000 person town."

    100 contacts is 1200 a year, not 72000.
    Assuming they get two weeks vacation, that's 24 contacts a week
    Assuming they work a 40 hour week, which cops never do, they usually work overtime, that's only 4 or 5 contacts a day. Unless there's something more to the eye, I don't believe asking a cop to get out of his car 4 or 5 times a day and speak with someone, conduct arrests, write tickets or just issue warnings, amounts to a ticket quota system that requires a whistleblower, it seems tailor made to make them get off their asses and do the bare minimum.

    Ignore the above observations if your error wasn't in the 72,000 number but was in the 100 contacts a month. I can't believe this is the case because the number is too high. If the yearly contact requirement IS 72k, even with a federal work year of 270 work days, you'd have 266 contacts a day. That doesn't seem possible.

  • D.D.||

    The other possibility is the quota was 100 contacts per month per officer. This would result in 1200 contacts a year per officer. 72000 / 1200 = 60 officers, in the town of Auburn?

  • Smiddy||

    Yes, sorry, I rambled on a bit. My point was making the officer average 5 events a day, whether they be a ticket, warning, arrest, or just an interview, doesn't really threaten that a quota system is going to overwhelm the community with harassing tickets. It will however, harrass lazy officers who don't already meet these minimal requirements. Unless there's something more, I don't feel the whistleblower has made his argument.

  • ExAuburnCop||

    Auburn patrol officers are currently on a 48 hour work week. 4 days on shift then 4 days off (only if there is no mandatory overtime). So on average each officer has 14 or 15 days a month to make the 100 contacts which equals about 6-7 contacts a day. 60% of those contacts are required to be traffic tickets, arrests, parking tickets, non-traffic tickets, etc. Last I checked there were 109 sworn officers employed by the City of Auburn but only about 60 assigned to the patrol division at any given time. So 60 tickets a month times 12 months times 60 officers on patrol equals 43,200 tickets a year for the department.

    One of the big problems is that over the past few years the number of tickets written has gone from around 11,000 to 32,000 from 2000 through 2011. For comparison, the number of traffic accidents only rose from around 1,500 to 1,700 during those years. Getting the required number of contacts is not a problem if the administration only wants contacts. They are asking for specific contacts like traffic tickets and arrests which look good on federal grant applications. Most of the money from traffic tickets is earmarked for specific programs throughout the state but grant money can be given to a department for their use only.

  • Ted Unlis||

    As LE veteran of 33 years, I felt compelled to let any reader of this article who knows nothing about good old fashioned routine police work that any officer who complains about having to make 100 contacts a month IS LAZY! Let's put it in perspective. First of all 100 contacts a month is 5 contacts a day, and the definition of contact by this department is tickets, warnings, field interviews, or arrests. This is not a quota, a quota would mean so many TICKETS per month. The only way an officer actually doing his/her job could not make 5 CONTACTS PER DAY would be by driving around all day without ever getting out of the patrol car, or hanging out at the coffee shop or squad room all day. Sounds like this loser needed to be fired and the Chief needs to be commended for getting rid of the loafer.

  • Smiddy||

    I have to agree. If the definition of "contact" is accurate and the number of contacts per month (100) is accurate, there's no story here.

  • bamacharm||

    When prizes are awarded to officers that issue the most tickets, that is a quasi-quota system and it's unethical.

  • bamacharm||

    Also, the police chief gave instructions on what percentages of the contacts had to be traffic citations (a quota). I'm not in law enforcement but I like Hanners' philosophy: protect and serve but, as much as possible, leave law abiding people alone. Police aren't supposed to be our overlords. I wish my own hometown had more officers like Hanners on the force. I'd likely still have the respect and admiration for the police I once did.

  • wareagle||

    the sgt didn't stop at contacts; he broke it down further and followed with the "don't be the guy who doesn't reach 100" as if the message needed clarity.

  • Silly ol' Bear||

    Try that in my town and see where it gets you. We do NOT tolerate ANY police quotas or abuse of power.

  • Vote||

    Will Auburn start ticketing college officials for throwing a diploma in the window of a student?

  • Firstname||

    The entire judicial system of the United Police States of America has become revenue driven. From speeding tickets to illegal confiscations of personal property to privatized incarceration. It will take a massive nationwide revolt to turn this evil ship around.

  • BDubRVA||

    If you're on Facebook, check out facebook.com/justice4hanners

  • bamacharm||

    Hanners is voicing what has been suspected for many years: traffic citations increase in weak economic times to compensate for declining local government revenues. See a January 2009 Science Daily article "Expect More Speeding Tickets in Weak Economy". For some, filling government coffers takes precedent over the citizens' ability to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. In Alabama, and I'm sure elsewhere, a large portion of the traffic fine is used to fund the municipal court salaries and costs. Even if one pays the fine online, or via mail, thereby avoiding municipal court, they must still pay court costs. It's a classic case of the "self-licking ice cream cone". The police are generally good people trying to serve the public but I have no doubt whatsoever they are under tremendous pressure to generate revenue for local governments and the courts at the publics' expense. I've observed a tremendous rise in the number of traffic stops over the last several years in my own hometown of Prattville, AL. The publics' perception of the local police has diminished considerably.

  • RJ99||

    The city of Auburn, around 50,000 residents, is carrying almost $300 million in debt. The debt has increased from around $50 million in 2000. The city council has been spending money like drunken sailors (with apologies to drunken sailors, who have to go home when they run out of money. The city council just issues more G.O. warrants and raises taxes). The city also spends $10,000 per student in the school system.

    The city has doubled the sales tax since 2005. The amount charged for a traffic violation has also increased, and the law was changed so that they can pull you over for driving without a seatbelt (the fine has been raised from $10 to $25). The city council paid over $4 million dollars for 100 acres of land in 2011 (over $400,000 per acre). And a new elementary school that was projected to cost $7 million before the tax increase actually cost over $10 million.

    Not to be outdone, the neighboring city of Opelika raised their sales tax percentage at the same time as Auburn did. The city council of Opelika also increased the amount of G.O. warrants by over $60 million a couple of years ago. $40 million is earmarked for a new high school. Opelika has also constructed a SportsPlex run by the city, and is in the process of creating a cable network to compete with the cable network here.

    But the people who live here don't care, as long as they can tailgate and scream "Roll Tide!" or "War Eagle!"...

  • wareagle||

    the bulk of the people who scream either do not live in either Auburn or Tuscaloosa. But don't let that stop you from painting football as the villain.

  • ExAuburnCop||

    Hanners is right about the department wanting "meat" tickets. The fix-it tickets (headlight out, bumper missing, tint too dark) are frowned upon if they make up the majority of an officer's logbook. What ends up happening is the officers are spending all day looking for traffic stops and tickets instead of performing any of their other duties. So when someone calls for the police because their door was just kicked down by a burglar or their boyfriend/girlfriend just beat them then it takes longer for the officer to get off the highway and into the neighborhood. By the way, they have 2 dedicated traffic enforcement officers and 2 high crime officers to increase their numbers as well.

  • ||

    I agree. Quotas are totally unacceptable. My agency doesn't have them, but my previous agency did. Total perverse incentives setup with quotas.

  • ||

    I wonder if they have binding Arbitration down there. If they do, hopefully this case will go to arbitration and if it does, I predict he will win. Arbitrators aren;t stupid and they respect rule of law and whistleblower protections. I used to work for an agency (Maui PD) that had quotas (much lower than Auburn's - but still) and that sucked. My current agency does not. Law Enforcement should not be onview stats driven. That ENCOURAGES bad police work and it encourages cops to harass people.

    Hopefully this guy will get his job back, with back pay.

    I know that some jurisdictions the cops don't have binding arbitration and they don't have a strong CBA and in those jurisdictions, shit like this can happen. Shit like this is why I promote CBA's that include binding arbitration as well as whistleblower laws.

    Good on him for getting an audio recording.

    The two officers in my agency who were unjustly fired got back pay to include back pay of overtime they would have worked (calculated by their average overtime per year). I will be following this case to its resolution

  • builtrich||

    Hey Mises Institute, we're watching. Time to move from the theoretical to the practical. This should embarrass the F--- out of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • flag flagit||

  • perlhaqr||

    Ok, so, I'm obviously not a fan of Cop Quotas, but how does 100 contacts a month work out to 72,000 contacts a year? 1,200 is the, like, mathematical answer there.

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