Stop and Frisk

Cops Need Quotas, Say NYPD Brass, Because They're Too Lazy To Work Without Them


Reason 24/7

In a trial that focuses on the New York City Police Department's controversial practice of promoting "stop and frisk" — approaching and shaking down people, without specific cause, who officers think might be up to no good — police department officials have come up with a novel explanation: officers are leaned on to "produce" because they're too damned lazy to do their jobs otherwise. Without necessarily conceding that "performance goals" are the same as quotas, the brass insists that they have to set minimum standards to get cops out of their cars and … err … interacting with the public or they'd doze and eat doughnuts all day.

From the New York Times:

The picture painted in court of the New York Police Department's officers was not pretty.

Ten percent of them were malcontents who worked as little as possible. Unless they are being paid overtime, officers seem to avoid writing summonses. Indeed, some police officers need to be weaned of the idea that they are paid to drive around in their patrol cars, eating doughnuts.

And those sentiments came not from critics of the department, but from police commanders and city lawyers.

One of the surprising developments of the trial regarding the Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices is how top police officials and city lawyers have been willing to criticize some of the department's rank-and-file officers — all in an effort to counter testimony from whistle-blower officers who say that commanders had created quotas that pressured them to make street stops without the proper grounds.

Some of the testimony heard over the first six weeks of the trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan has had more in keeping with labor arbitration than with a constitutional case, as the city has tried to play down secret station house recordings, partly by characterizing some police officers as lazy.

"The sergeant is complaining that the cops on overtime didn't want to get out of the car," one deputy inspector, Steven Mauriello, testified after being played a secret station house recording of one of his sergeants exhorting his officers to work harder. "He doesn't want them sitting in the car reading the newspaper."

The two whistle-blowing officers have offered testimony that is crucial to the plaintiffs' claim that the department relies on a quota system to force officers to generate more "activity" — a category that includes arrests, tickets and street stops. According to the civil rights lawyers who brought the stop-and-frisk class action lawsuit, the number of street stops has soared over the last decade because police officers, under pressure to make the quota, have resorted to stopping people whom they have no reason to suspect of wrongdoing.

Are we entirely certain that a napping, doughnut-chomping police force is inevitable in the absence of quotas performance goals? Or that it would be worse than what New York City has now?

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  1. Quotas. I’m sitting here thinking how that could possibly be consistent with a free society, even in theory.

    1. We should probably give LEOs leeway in such a grey area.

      1. If they had a quota to stop and frisk everyone, the Boston Bombing wouldn’t have happened.

        1. Nor would have the Boston Marathon.

          1. Sacrifices have to be made. If only we had an army of robots that would run along beside all the marathoners, continually checking them for weapons and drugs as they competed.

            1. Why not just replace the marathoners with robots?

              1. Why not just replace the marathoners with robots?

                That’s your solution for everything.

            2. Don’t bring your Culture here, boy.

              1. In The Culture, that wouldn’t be necessary.

                1. Is it The Culture? If so, it’s moved down a notch in my estimation.

          2. It definitely would have slowed the runners down some.

            1. Sooo… the Kenyan runners wouldn’t automatically win?


            2. I dunno … a couple of frisks now and then in the right spot would have done wonders.

          3. Sure it would have, it would have just taken longer to get to the finish line.

        2. Maybe if we started out each day arrested, living in prisons, we could ensure total security. If we’ve done nothing deserving of detention, we could leave the prison to go to work or to goof off in an approved, society-enriching manner.

          1. So you approve of social housing? After all, wasn’t that the architectural style of the soviet apartment block?

            1. Yes. I’m thinking giant, linear buildings that replace entire cities. In fact, why not have the places of employment, entertainment, and dining there as well? By keeping people inside–except for the occasional permit to go outside for particularly mutual citizens–we not only are more secure, we protect Gaea.

              1. Arcologies… for some reason people just don’t respond well to them, and their usage never takes off. I presume this is why you’re thinking manditory usage?

                1. Well, yeah, correct living is hard. That’s why it must be mandated.

              2. So you’re thinking Earth cities in Caves of Steel, ProL? I knew you weren’t a Spacer at heart.

                1. Shhh. Who said I’m going to live here? I’m going to Aurora! Robot slaves, post-scarcity, all the gold I can eat.

                  1. “Will there be donkeys?”

                    “All you can eat.”

                    1. I picture you on Solaria, being serviced by humaniform robots, living on an estate all alone. Eventually, no longer bothering to comment here, just leaving it to your chief robot, El Warto.

                    2. You guys are describing the megacorp complexes of Shadowrun.

          2. “Opt-out” libertarian paternalism. We’re not going to keep you in prison, but you somehow have to make it out of there on your own. Every day.

            1. Congratulations, citizen! You are free today!

          3. If you think about it, every time the public has a fit when someone commits a crime after serving a sentence for a previous crime, they are following that logic.

          4. You just reinvented the Sharaska.

    2. If you think about it, there are violations on every street in NYC at any one moment. Jaywalking’s illegal, right? Not waiting for the light before crossing? Littering? You could sit and watch people walk around and cite just about at will.

      God bless lazy cops.

      1. Having whizzed past a few speed traps unmolested because the guy was reading the paper, I agree.

  2. “Indeed, some police officers need to be weaned of the idea that they are paid to drive around in their patrol cars, eating doughnuts.”

    NO. The public would be much better off if cops just drove around in their patrol cars, eating doughnuts.

    1. This.

    2. I was just coming here to post this.

      1. I was just coming here to post that Hugh was almost assuredly going to post this, and that I agreed. However, I do not agree with agreeing with a non-posted post of agreement, so I retract my undelivered prior agreement post that I never posted.

        No, I’m not stoned. Yet.

        1. Nothing quite like sparking one in your car, eating donuts and watching the passersby pass on by.

        2. Well what I’m sayin’ is that there are known knowns and that there are known unknowns but there’s also unknown unknowns. Things we don’t know that we don’t know.

          1. They speak English in What?

    3. I’m sure Dunkin Donuts would agree.

      But I don’t place the blame on the officers, it is the Chiefs and Executives who need “production” in the way of arrests to justify their bloated budgets.

    4. Well, personally, I’d prefer they stopped for their doughnuts and didn’t risk the coffee spill. But, I’m fussy that way.

  3. Wow, lawyers really will say anything that benefits them at a given moment with no regard for truth. Why do we elect so many of these assholes to public office?

    1. Your first sentence answers your second.

      1. It doesn’t answer why people continue to believe them.

        1. I blame the Moron Majority.

          1. I prefer the theory of rational ignorance. Makes it easier not to want to bludgeon every passerby.

            1. Well, a combination of that and a created barrier to entry – so empty a personal life that you’re willing to devote massive amounts of time to the process of politics and so massive an ego that you think the world should follow your dictates. Oddly, this also describes a great many lawyers.

        2. Decision fatigue. So many people lying throughout the day that eventually you stop trying to figure out who is honest.

    2. America loves lies and the people who tell them. That’s why politicians, lawyers, and the entertainment industry do so well here.

  4. What about – we have them walk around instead of drive around? It’ll be cheaper, so we an toss the quota nonsense.

    1. Cops would be elbowing homeless guys out of the way for the comfiest spots on the sidewalks to nap.

      1. Naw, they’d run the homeless guys in for vagrancy. The homeless get to nap in a holding cell and the cop takes their place by the side of the road.

        Can’t say it’s a total loss for the homeless guy.

        1. Or the neighborhood that is relived of the bum’s presence for a few hours.

        2. Can’t say it’s a total loss for the homeless guy.

          That’s why they stop half way to the station and sodomize him with a nightstick. He’s got to know he’s been punished somehow, right?

    2. That’s a pretty good idea. And like security companies with roving patrols, we can implement keyboxes that they have to open and log into to register that they are doing there patrol – just place a series of these boxes at waypoints along the routes you want them to take.

  5. “The brass insists that they have to set minimum standards to get cops out of their cars and … err … interacting with the public or they’d doze and eat doughnuts all day.”

    Motivating union members really is a problem for everybody that has to deal with them.

    You can’t motivate them by increasing their pay for performance. Because they’re union members, you can’t scare them into doing their work by firing the ones that don’t produce.

    1. How exactly do you measure the performance of beat cops.

      I know! Quotas.

      Oops. Full circle.

      1. There are lots of ways to keep track of what cops are doing at any or every moment of their shift.

        There’s just not a very good way to reward them for putting in extra effort or to punish them for slacking off.

        …because of the union.

        It’s the same problem with auto workers and other unionized workers, too. Unionized teachers certainly don’t want their pay tied to performance either.

        If you can’t fire them for slacking off, and you can’t reward them for putting in the extra effort–then there’s no need to look any further for the reason why they’re so hard to motivate.

        I don’t know what the solution is to that. Our public employee unions are more intractable than the criminal gangs the unionized cops are supposed to be fighting. But I can tell you this: the last thing a police force that’s having trouble motivating its officers needs–is more money.

        That’s a police force that’s begging to have its budget cut. When they have no choice but to keep some officers and lay others off, then we’ll see how motivated some of those doughnut jockeys can be.

        1. It’s the same problem with auto workers and other unionized workers, too. Unionized teachers certainly don’t want their pay tied to performance either.

          I’m just not buying that. Assembly line metrics are trivial. Metrics where human interaction is your day-to-day activity are non-trivial.

          There are lots of ways to keep track of what cops are doing at any or every moment of their shift.

          That’s just bollucks. It’s not about keeping a log of their activity. It’s about evaluating their activity. A very easy metric is citation level, but it has all of the liberty flaws discussed previously. However, until you can present me with actual metrics that don’t have a liberty impact, AFAICT you are talking out your ass.

          1. “Metrics where human interaction is your day-to-day activity are non-trivial.”

            That’s horseshit.

            There are plenty of private non-union industries based on human interaction that have no trouble motivating their employees–by firing poor performers on a quantitative and/or qualitative scale and offering more money, etc. for superior performance.

            “A very easy metric is citation level, but it has all of the liberty flaws discussed previously. However, until you can present me with actual metrics that don’t have a liberty impact, AFAICT you are talking out your ass.”

            Go to a local restaurant. See how long the manager keeps waitresses around that are shitty to the customers–regardless of how fast they work.

            There’s nothing about what cops do that make their performance uniquely immeasurable. The qualitative aspects of a worker’s interactions may be more difficult to measure and manage than quantitative measurements, but decent managers have little trouble sorting good performance from bad.

            Do you imagine the worker interactions customers experience at Disneyland are better than what they get from their local motorcycle mechanic by accident?

            1. There are plenty of private non-union industries based on human interaction that have no trouble motivating their employees

              First, there’s a difference between motivation and evaluation.

              Second, no shit there’s a variety of qualitative measures. But generally they suck. In every industry. And in almost all industries, quantitative measurements are difficult.

              But yet you still can’t pony up a single way to measure a cop’s output. Measurement in general is hard. But you were the one who said “that don’t produce”.

              I’m asking you to define Production.

              1. “I’m asking you to define Production.”

                Well, it’s going to be different in different jurisdictions, isn’t it.

                In New York City, maybe they’re trying to keep the animals from killing each other in the street.

                In suburban San Diego, maybe they’re more about keeping underage kids from drinking on the beach.

                Whatever it is the managers want by way of performance, they’ve got both hands tied behind their backs if they can’t hire and fire who they want and control each and every cop’s salary raises.

                Do you really think there’s a precinct captain anywhere in New York City who doesn’t know who the good cops are working under him–and who the bad cops are?

            2. When managers can’t control who stays hired, who gets fired, and how much each employee makes–because of the union–yeah! Gee, I guess it’s hard to manage their employees’ performance…

              So, we have to have quotas–becasue management doesn’t have access to the ways they manage their employee’s performance? …because there is no other way to manage employee’s performance (without getting rid of the union)?

              Now you’ve gone full circle.

              P.S. The problem is the union.

              1. The cops all get paid on the same scale–and it’s based on seniority, not performance, isn’t it?

                And can they get fired for anything short of joining Al Qaeda and perpetrating a terrorist attack?

                Both of those things are what unions are all about.

  6. Then out spake brave Horatius,
    the Captain of the Gate
    “To every man upon this earth
    Death cometh soon or late.

    And how can man die better
    than facing fearful odds,
    For the ashes of his fathers,
    And the Quotas of his Gods.”

    1. That movie could have used like three fewer plot twists.

      1. That chick’s butt made up for it.

  7. I’ve noticed here in CO that there tends to be a noticeable increase in police presence on the roads towards the end of the month. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence and has nothing to do with the cops’ needing to hand out citations to make their quotas. Nope, not at all.

    1. How much of law enforcement is tied up in purely revenue-driven pursuits, like speeding tickets, versus protecting the public from actual criminal behavior?

      1. 99.9% of it?

      2. Almost all of it. The fact is that real crime has gone down by a huge percentage in the last 30 years. Yet, the number of cops is much higher. In 2012 there were 794,000 LEOs in America according to Wikipedia.…..e_officers

        I can’t find any historical numbers but that has to be significantly higher than it was in the 1970s. So we have many fewer crimes and many more cops. They have to have something to do.

        1. Just think of what would happen if the WoD ended. Traffic stops would skyrocket. They have to make up that asset forfeiture income somewhere.

          1. Forfeitures for reckless driving!!! Picking up hookers (i.e. driving too slow in the wrong neighborhood). The possibilities are endless.

  8. I’m fortunate to live in a state where fines go to the state capital, not the agency that gave out the ticket. Same thing when the cops steal your property.

    This means they don’t have as much of an incentive to hand out tickets for the sake of handing out tickets, or to look for property to steal.

  9. it’s probably a wild coincidence that my wife just got her first ticket after 24 years – for turning right during a red light – prohibited at that intersection – even though no one was around. And it was the end of the month.

    1. My wife got a ticket a few years ago for having a headlight out. She said the cop didn’t even mention a ticket until her noticed her wedding ring. Pulling women over and hitting on them for their phone numbers. Protect and serve baby.

      1. Pulling women over and hitting on them for their phone numbers. Protect and serve baby.

        You mean “protect” doesn’t refer to wearing condoms and “serve” doesn’t refer to forcibly sodomizing moderately hot chicks? Oh wait, who am I kidding, we all know cops go bareback when they’re raping.

  10. because they’re too damned lazy to do their jobs otherwise.

    Well you could just fire them…. Oh, right… unions.

  11. There is an easy way to check this out. How high were the quotas and did the quotas ever increase and if so why? I can see the police sergeant’s point here. You want people out doing their jobs. And a quota is one way to ensure that. But a really low quota would do the job. You would want to set the quota low enough that anyone who actually tried to do their job would meet it. Was the quota set that low? If not then, they were not setting it to get lazy cops to work, they were setting it to gin up numbers.

  12. Some day my luck may run out. But in all of my times in New York, never had a cop be anything but nice to me. Maybe I am lucky or maybe the fact that I am white and either look like a business man or a tourist rather than black has something to do with that.

    1. Being white and over 30 goes a long way in this city.

      1. Yup. That and dressed well. I go to NYC at least twice a year and generally walk when I am there. Never once has any cop ever hassled me for anything.

      2. In most cities it goes a long way.

  13. So, what I get from this article is that we need to start a doughnut fund for the police. I’ll pitch in the first $10 if it will keep the thugs in their cars.

  14. The only thing better than lazy cops is no cops.

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