Surprise: Cops Write More Tickets When Their Employers Get a Big Cut of the Cash

When it pays to crack down on Mickey Mouse offenses


In The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jeremy Kohler makes an unsurprising but important point about police incentives:

Mickey Mouse offenses

In the Land of Lincoln, speeding and other traffic infractions are state violations. Municipalities get very little revenue from the tickets.

In 2013, police in Madison County [across the Illinois border from St. Louis] wrote just 17 tickets per 100 residents, about half the rate of Missouri and about one-quarter of the rate of St. Louis County.

Consider Ferguson, population 21,111, which wrote 11,822 tickets last year. Or Creve Coeur, population 17,865, which wrote 14,382 tickets.

Compare that to cities of similar size in Madison County: Alton, population 27,690, where officers wrote 6,653 traffic tickets in 2013, the last full year reported.

Read the rest here. And go here to see me arguing that limiting localities' ability to tap such revenue streams would be a better reform than the recently trendy notion of consolidating towns into a municipal megagovernment.


NEXT: A. Barton Hinkle on the God-Awful Mess Religion in the Public Sphere Makes

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  1. Oh my stars!

  2. Incentives: Buying more of what you reward for six million years.

  3. As a LEO myself, I HATE the fact that many agencies’ budgets are made up of the money that is collected from fines, tickets, etc. If an agency needs to be funded, FUND IT out of a general budget! Then do something else (useful) with the money that is collected by writing those tickets and something else (useful) with the time I’m not writing them.

    1. When did you fuckers start calling yourselves “LEO’s” and why? What was wrong with just calling yourself police, or cops, or whatever?

      1. Because it makes it sound like they actually enforce the law, when in fact their job is to force people to obey them, regardless of if the order is lawful or not. Since they’ve got immunity, this means they can use force on people who refuse to obey unlawful orders, including deadly force, and nothing else will happen. Law enforcement? *snort* Compliance enforcement would be more accurate.

      2. OK, how about deputy, then, dumb ass.

        There are PLENTY of us that despise what politicians and bad cops have done to the profession, who really try to protect the personal and property rights of the citizens we serve. Those of us who are libertarian (like myself) outnumber the statists and libtard jackboots, but we don’t get a whole lot of press because it doesn’t make for a good story on the news.

        That being said, how about commenting on what I said.

        1. Those of us who are libertarian (like myself) outnumber the statists and libtard jackboots

          I highly doubt this. It would be out of line with just about every other segment of society. Moreover, it’s a profession not a social group; what about police work selects for libertarians?

          There are PLENTY of us that despise what politicians and bad cops have done to the profession … but we don’t get a whole lot of press because it doesn’t make for a good story on the news.

          Reforming the police force requires more than just not being a scumbag. The abuses make the headlines, but we focus on them because they are rarely if ever followed up by accountability. Yeah, your job might be thankless and doing it right won’t get you much attention, but that’s true of most other jobs as well. If you don’t want to take a bold stand and risk getting fired or roughed up by union thugs, that’s fine, but it’s not laudatory.

          As to what you said, sure it sounds fine, but really there’s a lot of weaseling there. What if your agency doesn’t need to be funded? What if the general fund doesn’t have enough to make up the difference? Where should the money go and where should your time be spent?

          I think ultimately the fine model is flawed. Sure, it might be an effective penalty, but that’s only one half of the story. Why does the government deserve to pocket it?

          1. As far as my thoughts on libertarian minded (for clarification) cops, we do outnumber the thugs on the extreme ends of the curve. We are hard to see because of all the noise. The politicians that make the laws that we are supposed to enforce don’t help matters at all. I have personal knowledge and experience of just such a case where several officers were trying to get rid of a bad officer and the politicians who had the final say refused to pull the trigger. They didn’t want to look bad in front of the voting public – imagine that! The fallout from that is still ongoing.

            As far as funding goes, law enforcement needs to be prioritized just like everything else. If the public wants to fund more, then fund it, if not, then exercise your 2nd amendment rights (which most cops I know don’t have a problem with, either). Certainly no weaseling intended there, just making a very generalized statement.

            I agree that there is a flaw in the fine model, but the only other option for a penalty is incarceration, which we see from the “War on Drugs” isn’t exactly a rip-roaring success. A seizure of property is less damaging than a seizure of person in my opinion (i.e. – Eric Garner in NYC should have NEVER been taken into custody over the cigarette tax).

            As with many things, there are a lot of problems in the system that I don’t pretend to know how to fix. Just my thoughts and perhaps somewhere to start.

            1. (i.e. – Eric Garner in NYC should have NEVER been taken into custody over the cigarette tax)

              He wasn’t taken into custody over a cigarette tax. He was taken into custody (and ultimately killed) for failing to show sufficient respect. Try to be fucking honest.

              1. He’s a “LEO”… he’ll lie to himself all day to justify his lifestyle.

                1. He’s a “LEO”… he’ll lie to himself all day to justify his lifestyle.

                  At this point I wouldn’t trust a cop for directions. Seriously. Last time I asked a cop for directions was in Boston. I asked for directions to the turnpike, and he sent me to Roxbury (a notoriously crime ridden area where a white person with out of state plates has a target on their back).

                  1. I only asked for directions because it was dark. In the day I can navigate the city by landmarks. At night I’m screwed.

        2. Those of us who are libertarian (like myself) outnumber the statists and libtard jackboots

          Oh really? Then why do the majority of cops reflexively back up bad cops when they behave badly? When you condone bad behavior, you’re just as bad.

          I’ll start believing that good cops exist when they stop tolerating the bad cops that they supposedly outnumber.

        3. Deputy… I was raised with the notion that “the policeman is your friend”. I’ve long since abandoned that idea because I no longer believe there’s such a thing as a good cop.

          Virtually all cops fall into one of three categories:
          1) Those who want to save the world,
          2) Those who want a job that pays well and is more interesting than sitting at a desk,
          3) Those who have tiny dicks and big inferiority complexes and just want an excuse to push people around.

          I think the percentage in the third category is increasing. Certainly we’re hearing more about them. But why do I view the other two categories of cops as “bad”?


          They allow the third category of cop to exist. They stand silent as their “class three” partner shoots someone’s pet dog, or kicks a homeless man as he’s handcuffed on the ground, or shoots someone in the back and throws down an untraceable firearm claiming, “It was him or me”. They let the criminals in blue get away with it. More, they stand guard over criminal cops – protecting them from justice.

          And that’s why you, and every other cop, is a bad cop.


    2. What about the cops who DO stand up? Who DO protect the populace from evil cops? Sure, you could call them “good cops”. But not for long. Like the female cop who was fired after she stopped a vicious pig from beating on a disabled man, they get fired, or shunned out of their job, or otherwise marginalized until they leave. (She eventually got her job back. I’d wager she won’t last.)

      But the rest of you? You’re all worthless pieces of shit.

      There was a time when I would have intervened to save a cop from getting his head beat in. Not any more. Think about that. I’m about as law-abiding as a person can be. My “rap sheet” consists of a couple speeding tickets and a “trespass” charge that was wholly bogus (hyperactive cop – charge dismissed). But I don’t support the cops any more. If you get your ass kicked, you probably had it coming, if not for what you’ve done, then for what you’ve allowed to happen as you looked on.

      You want my respect? My support? Start busting bad cops. Make the charges stick. Raise hell if they aren’t prosecuted. Put your career on the line to make the right thing happen – and if some weak-kneed, spineless POS prosecutor won’t follow through, draw a bead on them and tell the world.

      Either that, or quit. Find another job. Do something with some honor.

      1. hear hear!

  4. Anecdotal: Back in 2009 and 2010 when the State of California was facing significant budget shortfalls, I noticed that there were DUI checkpoints virtually every Friday night on one major thoroughfare in the area I was living at the time. After the state got its books in order (due entirely to fed policy and reinflation of asset bubbles), these DUI checkpoints pretty much stopped.

    The state does views such crime as a revenue stream first and foremost. And that is why so many states are anti-Uber/Lyft (well, that and taxi unions).

  5. One of the excuses for State prosecution of crimes is that they are crimes against society, and the State represents society. Therefore private prosecution by victims is abhorrent.

    If this really is the case, then the State (ie, taxpayers) should pay for all aspects of criminal prosecution, including defense, and all income from fines should go to the State’s general fund. Restitution is an interesting dilemna; if the crimes are against the State, should not the state collect the restitution? Or if restitution really is restitution and goes to the victim, doesn’t that imply that victims should prosecute? If victims prosecute and get the restitution, should they also pay for the prosecution and defense, as the State should for crimes against the State? Or should the losers pay court costs too? If so, then should losers pay court costs when the State prosecutes?

    So many things go wrong when you let the State stick its nose in.

  6. I once got a ticket in a speed trap in Missouri. Porky with a radar gun at the bottom of the hill clocked me at 42 in a 35 zone. But the beauty of the law in Missouri is that a speeding ticket is a criminal offense, so all of the protections of your rights are in play.

    When I asked the judge about that at the first appearance, he said, “Yes, it’s a criminal offense, but you don’t have to worry about going to jail.” I then asked if I was entitled to a jury trial (knowing full well that I was.) He wasn’t sure about that. Apparently no one had ever asked to impanel a jury to hear a 42 in a 35 zone speeding case.

    Once the judge figured out that I was indeed entitled to a jury trial, I demanded one.

    That got the prosecutor’s attention.

    The next day he called and left a message for me to come over and discuss the issue with him at 2:00. I called him back at 3:00 and asked what he wanted. By that point, he’d already decided that he wasn’t going to chase the issue any further for 42 in a 35 zone and told me he was dismissing the charges.

    “Not so fast”, I told him, “I’ll need a letter verifying that you are dismissing the charges.”

    I got the letter two days later.

    Of course, other states adhere to the fiction of “administrative offenses” and in those cases you have to take a different tack. Haven’t had to deal with it, but the first thing I’d do is write a subpoena for the radar unit, to have it removed from the car and sealed for testing to ensure accuracy.

    1. Here in Maine they passed a law that says the radar is always right, even when it isn’t. And the radar read whatever the cop said it read, even if it didn’t.

      Good thing is that all ticket revenue goes into the state’s general fund, so local cops don’t get any of it. Funny, but both of my speeding tickets were from troopers who get paid by the state, not any locality.

      1. I remember years back KBOI news reported on problems with radar units. They actually had footage of a unit operating in a car that was tracking nothing. There was no moving object in front of the car. Then they turned on the heater. The radar registered 37mph. When they turned the fan speed up, it registered 62. Turn the fan up another notch, the radar registered 78mph.

        So a cop who wanted to bust you for 62 in a 55 zone just had to turn the fan to setting two. But if he really wanted to screw you, he’d turn it to three.

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