But Have They Got a Twenty-Seven B Stroke Six?


Radley Balko links a depressing (if not terribly surprising) story about Maryland D.C. cops having to prove their "productivity" by finding any pretext to issue a ticket in neighborhoods that are short on serious crime:

Chevy Chase residents say they are getting more than they bargained for now that the Metropolitan Police Department is providing steady, overnight patrols in their Northwest neighborhood. They say officers are ticketing their vehicles for everything from parking too close to a driveway to having improperly affixed stickers.


"They have to show some type of productivity during the night," Capt. Willie Smith said. "We have anywhere from 30 to 40 officers working all night in the Second District, and there's two to four in that [area]. If they come in without any tickets, no arrests, no truck stops… they could be challenged by their superiors."

The obvious lesson is, of course, that it's a bad idea to give cops incentives to manufacture offenses. But it's also a reminder that our legal system is the sort of dense tangle of rules that makes labor actions like "work to rule" possible: If you care about the rule of law, you're supposed to be opposed to highly discretionary enforcement of the law, but actually consistently enforcing all the laws on the books would create intolerable burdens.