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by Peter Moskos

November 10, 2010

NYPD Quotas (and Schoolcraft)

I would love it if we could distinguish between quotas and what happened to Adrian Schoolcraft. Just because the NYPD has (as Schoolcraft says) quotas (or at least something that line officers feel are quotas) does not grant legitimacy to Schoolcraft's media-hungry self-serving whining about how he was treated by the NYPD.

There is a quota issue in the NYPD. High-ranking officers say there aren't quotas, just "productivity goals." Patrol officers say compstat creates stat pressure and they have quotas to meet. Regardless of the semantics, quota pressure makes officers write stupid tickets. And this is bad for policing and bad for New York City. For instance, a student just showed me a $50 ticket he got for... taking a nap on the subway. Technically it was for taking up two seats of a not crowded train at 10pm. That's not right. But the officer had to write tickets. And my student was a sitting (or sleeping) duck.

So can anybody tell me the legal difference between a quota and a productivity goal? The state law says,
quota shall mean a specific number of (A) tickets or summonses ... or (B) arrests or C) stops of individual suspected of criminal activity within a specified period of time.

But then the law goes on to say:
Nothing provided in this section shall prohibit an employer ... from taking ... job action against ... a police officer for failure to satisfactorily perform his job assignment of issuing tickets or summonses for traffic ... except that the employment productivity of such police officer shall not be measured by such officer's failure to satisfactorily comply with the requirement of any quota.
Huh? So you can judge an officers on how many tickets they write as long as you don't require them to write any? I don't get it. What's the law say?


Anonymous said...

I dont really get why this quota thing has everyone in such a twist. The average NYPD cop has 20 tours a month on the street and the average number of summonses the bosses are looking for is around 15. If you dont see one summonsable offense per tour, then you are a total zero hairbag. I understand that, in principle, the quota thing creates a knee jerk response, but can we just think about it logically? If you wanted to do goof around all day and wait for something to happen, then you should have been a fireman.

PCM said...

The main problem with quotas (along with being illegal) is that they treat cops like little kids who need to be controlled. If you treat me like an immature kid, I'll act like an immature kid. And immature kids to stupid shit and ticket the wrong people and things.

When I was a cop, I took any attempt to impose a quota as an insult. And I don't work well when I feel insulted.

Police are professionals who need to exercise discretion. Professionals should be respected and treated like professionals. Especially by their bosses.

It's why we don't give quotas to doctors. I mean, any doctor could write 5 prescriptions a day, but we still don't make it mandatory because it's not how you treat a professional.

If you're a zero hairbag (such an NYPD term) cop, then I don't want you doing anything. You're right that good cops don't need quotas (but still resent them for good reason). But quotas make bad cops do bad things. And that's worse than no quota at all.

Anonymous said...

Very good points, but in my experience, if you give people the choice between doing nothing and doing something, they will almost always choose nothing. My main point was that the numbers NYPD brass want out of the average patrol cop are so slow that there really isnt any need to unnecessarily write any bullshit tickets. I've generally found that cops who bitch about quotas or productivity goals or whatever you want to call them are usually the guys who couldn't find a collar in a shirt factory and spend their whole tour cooped up on some dead end street. Unfortunately in our line of work there aren't too many ways to measure our performance other than arrests and summonses. I think that quotas really become frightening when you start dealing with more specialized units that make serious collars. If you look at many of the more serious NYPD incidents over the years, as I'm sure you have, you'll see that several of them are related either directly or indirectly to good cops in proactive units tasked with making felony collars. All this being said, patrol is the backbone of any department, and it's not cool to force a cop to write x number of tickets, but it's also not cool to be a complete zero who thinks that you shouldn't have to do anything more than come to work and put your uniform on. Further uncoolness results from bitching to the newspaper because you got reprimanded for being a do-nothing. Unfortunately, the name of the game in NYPD these days is create a tempest in a teacup and then file your lawsuit.