By on July 10, 2009

Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) troopers are punished for failing to issue a specific number of speeding tickets in at least one part of the state. Attorney Fletcher Long provided WTVF-TV with a copy of a memo THP Sergeant Clifford M. Babits posted on the wall of the Troop C station in Robertson County. “I can no longer justify fives on evaluations for troopers not producing activity,” Babits wrote. “I require three things. 1. Answer the radio, 2. Work your crashes, and 3. WRITE TICKETS. I take some of the blame for not properly motivating ya’ll in the area of activity. Overall activity last year (2008) was well below the district average… Because activity plays such a high part of an everyday road trooper’s requirement, it is going to weigh heavy on yearly evaluation scores.”


These scores, with ‘five’ being the highest rating, are key to winning promotions, extra pay and the most desirable types of assignments. According to the memo, scoring is based solely on the number of tickets issued, although other factors such as routinely failing to follow orders can result in a lowered score. Babits set six hundred tickets a year, or three tickets per day, as the bare minimum.

“Let me stress I am not putting a quota on anyone,” Babits wrote. “I don’t care if a trooper writes below the 600 mark, it is his or her evaluation score, not mine. If a trooper turns in 600 citations per year, his or her overall evaluation will not be above the average score of three… I must be able to justify giving a trooper a five. Low activity is a killer.”

It takes 800 citations per year, or four tickets per day, to earn the top score. A rating of four is earned by writing 700 tickets per year or 3.5 per day. Those who fail toexceed the average score of three are punished by not being allowed to earn time-and-a-half pay on overtime assignments.

“Effective immediately, a trooper that does not produce above average activity (17.5 tickets per week) will not be able to work grant overtime in my county,” Babits wrote.

Tennessee Highway Patrol officials deny any quota exists. Many state police forces use the average number of tickets written by troops or stations to encourage a steady year-on-year increase in the number of speeding tickets issued.

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43 Comments on “Tennessee Highway Patrol Ticket Quota Uncovered...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    Remember, it’s all about public safety. The safety of their public jobs.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Corrosive corruption.

  • avatar
    commando1

    Finally! The smoking gun: it’s in writing.
    As if that will make any difference….

  • avatar
    jberger

    No surprise on the quota, but threatening to hold back overtime pay for not meeting the quota?

    Bet there are some labor lawyers looking forward to getting this one in front of a jury.

    Government exists to serve itself, not the people.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    In other news, the Pope is Catholic, and bears crap in the woods.

  • avatar
    rpiotr01

    Tickets are one thing, at least that’s a one time payout. Why do they need to tie them to points, which greatly boosts insurance costs? They don’t get any of that money, what’s it to them?

  • avatar
    qfrog

    To tax and collect.

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    qfrog :
    To tax and collect.

    ^^^Brilliant.

  • avatar

    Every five or so years, some Sgt. writes a memo on this, not understanding that this is not written down.

    As the police would say: “Move along, nothing to see here”.

    More relevant, the “Story of the Golden Hammer”.

    A retired NYSP Sgt. relates a story as to how he would award the biggest ticket writer in his command, on a monthly basis, the “Golden Hammer”. It was a garden variety hammer on a pedestal painted gold. Other than this there was no other award or money, and it was not even a “formal” award. The name comes from the nickname cops in a multi-car radar trap give the radar car. He’s “the hammer”.

    He found this a good motivator and source of much humor, until one month where two of the big ticket writers got into a fight over the hammer. At that point he had to retire the idea because some of the guys took it too seriously.

    The person who really sets a quota is the guy in any squad who lives to write traffic. There is always at least one.

  • avatar
    Caffiend

    Wow. I love that he writes it isn’t a quota system in the same paragraph that he gives the specifics!

  • avatar
    SpacemanSpiff

    What an idiot! It is y’all, not ya’ll.

  • avatar
    50merc

    There is no quota. He’s simply practicing Affirmative Action. Or maybe the patrol is an EEO (Equal Enforcement Obsession) employer.

  • avatar
    grog

    This wins the weekly Claude Rains Memorial Gambling Awareness Award.

    I wonder how long it’ll take (if it’ll ever happen) for these kinds of reports to filter up to the public conciousness? Everybody *knows* speeding tickets are all about revenue and virtually nothing about safety. And yet, we accept the status quo.

    If I were king….

  • avatar
    dswilly

    I have friends in the trooper business and they say that they all have “unwritten” quotas in the area of 50 tickets per month. They justify this as a way to get troopers out and circulating. Revenue, revenue, revenue.

  • avatar
    dean

    No surprise on the quota, but threatening to hold back overtime pay for not meeting the quota?

    Bet there are some labor lawyers looking forward to getting this one in front of a jury.

    He’s not threatening to hold back overtime pay. He’s just telling you that if you’re an average ticket writer you won’t be getting any overtime shifts. Nothing there for a lawyer.

    I am from BC but got a ticket in WA state a few weeks ago on my motorcycle. I was fined $175 for going 80 in a 60 zone. It was 5:30 in the afternoon, sunny, perfect visibility, excellent road conditions. My pace was well within my capabilities as a rider, not even close to the capabilities of my machine, and I would suggest that I was at less risk than an SUV at the speed limit.

    But warnings don’t meet quotas, so despite the officer’s admission that he was a rider, too, I got the ticket. Oh well, at least there are no points for an out-of-province ticket.

    Edit: I should mention that this ticket was in Eastern WA in the middle of nowhere. I paid without complaint, figuring it is my punishment for not even noticing the cop until his lights were in my mirrors.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Most departments look to recover police labor costs through traffic enforcement revenues. Aggressive ones also expect to recover equipment and facilities costs. Some want to show a substantial surplus after costs are recovered.

    Policemen falling short of revenue expectations can look forward to a long period of less desirable shifts and patrol assignments, zero lucrative paid duties, and a transfer to a penal colony – the lousiest, furthest away place to work. Rookies are terminated.

    Quota fulfillment, called productivity, is tallied at month end to two decimal places. Motorists should be careful to avoid notice during the last week of the month. Anything that moves is likely to be cited for even minor transgressions in the run up to the monthly quota productivity assessment.

  • avatar

    “Let me stress I am not putting a quota on anyone,” Babits wrote. “I don’t care if a trooper writes below the 600 mark, it is his or her evaluation score, not mine. If a trooper turns in 600 citations per year, his or her overall evaluation will not be above the average score of three… I must be able to justify giving a trooper a five.”

    I don’t care if you don’t write tickets, but I do care enough to downgrade your eval for it. If an individual wants to set personal quotas and doesn’t bend the law to attain them, fine by me, but any supervisor that pushes that crap like this sergeant is a douche bag. This douche bag also needs to look up quota…nevermind, he already defined it in his memo.

    I wonder if “fletcher long” has any explaining to do.

  • avatar

    I think every Police captain should run for election based on the three primary concerns expressed in this article!!!! Then you wonder why law enforment gets so little respect.

    I think just about every American driver would gladly pay higher taxes to let law enforment do more important things like patrol neighborhoods, shopping mall parking lots, and have more officers available to respond to emergencies. They are not supposed to be tax collectors!!!

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    Least surprising thing I’ve read today…

    I just made a trip thru TN, KY, OH… the “tax collectors” were out in force for the 4th of July weekend.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Got my first ticket in 27 years driving yesterday (no kidding…it was my wife’s fault really). I could handle the first ticket, but then they gave me a second one just as I was started to roll away. If they didn’t have a quota to meet, my ass is a banjo.

  • avatar
    sardaukar

    Is anyone *really* surprised? As someone already mentioned, we all know that troopers have an off-the-books quota for ticket writing, and we know that police spokesmen always claim the opposite. It’s old news. I think most folks just choose not to fight City Hall, as the saying goes.

    I live in Taxachusetts. I for one am just glad that we no longer have to pay state troopers time-and-a-half to drink coffee in their squad cars and shoot the shit with road workers because only a highly-trained, armed lawman is qualified to stand on the side of the road and wave a flag when crews are out trimming trees. Of course, we are all waiting for the day a crew of helpless construction workers are taken out by a rifle-toting madman who would have been stopped if there had been a cop instead of a civilian waving that flag. Any minute now. Here it comes.

  • avatar
    exdetroit

    A couple of years ago I was ticketed in Tennessee as a result of an obvious speedtrap where the speed limit suddenly dropped 20 MPH for a couple of hundred yards.

    My response has been to stop spending ANY money in Tennessee. I often drive through my state on my way to other more interesting places. I buy gas before I enter, and I make a point of not stopping and spending.

    The people of Tennesee have choosen to represent themselves in this underhanded way by electing the folks that they do, they ultimately should pay the price.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Wait…I’ve seen this before. Capt O’Hagan tells them to write more tickets and then Farva brings in coffee. Rabbit’s has a bar of soap in it, but he refuses to go along with the gag. Because none of the troopers are listening to his quota pep talk, O’Hagan gets mad and bites the bar of soap in half.

    100% Plagarism.

  • avatar
    tech98

    In other news, the Pope is Catholic, and bears crap in the woods.

    In further news, bears are Catholic, and the Pope craps in the woods…
    Corrupt Southern cops, take #37455465

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    In other words, the cops treat taxpayers like marks.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    No comment (so far)

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “In further news, bears are Catholic, and the Pope craps in the woods…”

    That’s uncalled for.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Considering how bad drivers are, a state trooper could easily write three valid tickets in the first hour of a shift and have plenty of time left over for other duties. These guys primarily patrol the highways, right?

  • avatar

    Considering how bad drivers are, a state trooper could easily write three valid tickets in the first hour of a shift and have plenty of time left over for other duties.

    Maybe not always in the first hour, but they could probably write three solid, no BS citations on an average day without too much effort, and I have no problem with that. If you read the memo pdf, you’ll see that this has everything to do with quotas, with not a word devoted to safety. Once you start mandating X number of citations, you’ve started a vicious circle (see how he compared his troopers to other units’ numbers) that has nothing to do with public safety. By directly tying evals to the quota, you’re forcing compliance.

    Sarge gets bonus points for trying to shame his troops with the bit about “failing to carry out an order”. Total douche bag.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    I hate to rain on the conspiracy parade , but revenue generation is not the goal in this particular instance. Quotas such as the one described here are used as a crutch by lazy and/ or unimaginative supervisors in all types of jobs (not just law enforcement) to gauge an employee’s performance. My guess is that this particular sergeant could give a rat’s ass about “revenue generation” and sticking it to motorists. That’s a concern that is, quite literally, above his pay grade. His real motive is much less sinister than that, but still pretty stupid.

    I kinda feel sorry for him, because I imagine that THP’s “performance evaluation” system is every bit as retarded as most public employee evaluation systems are and presents nothing but headaches for the front- line managers who have to figure them out. OTOH, just from reading his memo it’s pretty clear to me that he’s a passive aggressive hump of a supervisor who would probably throw any one of his guys under the bus the second it looked as if it was in his best interest, so I’ll go ahead and nuke him anyway.

    The problem with evaluating a police officer is that it’s nearly impossible to do objectively if you don’t consider quotas. Let’s pretend a sergeant has to eval 3 officers. Should he measure how many arests and other forms of activity an officer made in the last month? Officer Fife made 16 arrests, but 13 of them were multiple arrests of Otis and two other local winos for Alcohol Intoxication, 1 was for domestic violence between Earnest T and Charlene, and he caught Gomer DUI twice. All of his arrests are for misdemeanors. He wrote 15 other traffic citations (11 of which were for speeding out on the highway where the speed limit drops from 55 mph to 35 mph when you enter town) and 50 parking tickets. He also took 2 accident reports and 3 other criminal complaints as a result of dispatched calls. Add it all up and he has a total of 86 ‘activity units’ for the month.

    Officer Crockett made 6 Felony arrests, but they all came out of an investigation into meth being sold out of Floyd’s barber shop that took all month long and resulted in several leads that blossomed into successful investigations and prosecutions by the police in the neighboring town of Mt. Pilot. He also made 2 misdemeanor juvenile arrests of Opie and Johnny Paul Jason for smoking weed down by the creek. Ofc. Crockett didn’t take any accident reports, didn’t write any traffic tickets, and he only wrote up 2 criminal complaint reports (for his cases against Floyd and Opie), but he also wrote up and swore out 3 search warrants as part of that investigation. He also taught 3 DARE classes. Ofc. Crockett has a total of 16 ‘activity units.’

    That leaves us with Ofc. Roscoe. He only made 1 arrest, but it was when he caught Goober sneaking into Aunt Bea’s bedroom window carrying a roll of duct tape, an ice pick, wearing nothing but a ski mask and a raging hard- on. The reason Roscoe caught Goober is because he liked to get out and rattle doors to make sure they were secure instead of sitting in his cruiser outside the bar looking to hassle Otis or hiding in a van with a pair of binoculars watching Floyd sneak methamphetamine precursors into the abandoned warehouse across the street from his barbershop. He also took 12 accident reports and 18 criminal complaints off of dispatched calls because he was usually the only one available for service most of the time. He only wrote 2 traffic tickets, both of which were the result of expired driver’s licenses held by people involved in the accident reports he took that Barney and Sonny didn’t.
    He has 33 ‘activity units.’

    So which officer is doing the best job? The answer is that all of them are doing their job well. None of them can be accused of gold- bricking, but the sergeant’s superiors tell him that he can’t give them all a superlative rating. He has to ding someone and rank them against each other.

    The sergeant could be totally subjective. He could decide that the 16 misdemeanor arrests that Fife made aren’t worth as much as the 6 Felony arrests Sonny made which aren’t as valuable to society as the one arrest Roscoe made that saved Aunt Bea’s virtue. The problem is that then Fife and Sonny are going to get pissed and file a grievance on him with Sherrif Taylor.

    Instead, he’s trying to find a way to rank his subordinates that appears to be an objective standard so he doesn’t take too much grief from them. That means considering all activity as equally valuable and just counting the numbers. In other words, Barney wins because he has higher numbers. The sergeant can put it on the others’ for not having high enough numbers. “Sorry, guys. You need to be more like Barney.” That’s what this sergeant with the THP is doing. Of course, it’s still a quota system even though the sergeant insists that it isn’t.

    He is trying to cover his ass, but he is too stupid to realize that putting such idiocy in writing is likely to get him jammed up with his superiors over the media shitstorm that is coming their way. The official THP position is that they don’t do quotas for any reason and this clown has put in writing that he does. The fact that it’s not for revenue generation is immaterial.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    Yeah, well I live in TN.

    I’m not a fan of quotas but I’d sure like to see some of the reckless driving on the interstate toned down.

    If you gave me the badge and pad for a day I wouldn’t write a single ticket for speeding and I’d still run out of paper.

    I’d be ticketing for lane changes without signaling (especially the jerks doing 3 lane changes left and 2 right weaving through 10 cars in a pack of traffic with most passes within a couple of feet of someone elses bumper)

    I’d also be ticketing idiots lane changing without signaling while talking on the cell phone plastered to the side of their head that obviously have only one hand on the wheel and zero eyes on the road.

    TN might not consider those ticketable offenses. I’m not sure, but if needed I’d just write them up as reckless driving. The drivers I see on I-40/I-75 on a daily basis are absolutely looking for trouble.

    If you flew by me at 80 mph with plenty clearance on all sides of your vehicle and signaled when you changed lanes (again with clearance on all 3 or 4 sides of your vehicle depending on the lane you are moving to/from) I’d wave as you went by or give you a big thumbs up.

    Increase the speed limits but ticket the snot out of bad drivers. (not the joe that makes a one time mistake, but the guy you see driving like an idiot for 5 minutes straight in the midst of moderate to heavy traffic)

  • avatar
    SpacemanSpiff

    “In further news, bears are Catholic, and the Pope craps in the woods…
    Corrupt Southern cops, take #37455465”

    I disagree, he is not a Southerner if he can’t spell y’all. He must be a Yankee.

  • avatar
    vento97

    Samuel L. Bronkowitz :

    the “tax collectors” were out in force for the 4th of July weekend.

    I call that “The sharks are in the water” (state trooper) OR “Barney Fife is on the prowl” (county or local police)…

  • avatar

    [F]rom reading his memo it’s pretty clear to me that he’s a passive aggressive hump of a supervisor who would probably throw any one of his guys under the bus the second it looked as if it was in his best interest, so I’ll go ahead and nuke him anyway.

    Dukeboy01 knows of what he speaks.

  • avatar
    tdhump65

    Well I must say the quota got me two weeks ago on 65N in Southern Indiana. I was stupid enough to fall into the trap but what really burns me is the typed trooper portion of the ticket. Everything was ready for that day from the time, location, court etc. Talk about a quota. Looking to fill-up a book of citations. Oh and “dhanson865” I totally agree. Never have been a proponent of “speed kills” all those irresponsible drivers are what’s killing but that is another topic. Enough…

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    dhanson865 :
    Yeah, well I live in TN…

    If you gave me the badge and pad for a day I wouldn’t write a single ticket for speeding and I’d still run out of paper.

    I don’t know about that.

    If you ticket crap drivers, you’d come across many with suspended licenses and/or arrest warrants. Then you have to spend 1/2 a shift processing an arrest (that’s a net revenue loss and probably does NOT count toward your ticket quota.)

    Your best bet for promotion and better treatment is to restrict ticketing to those who speed safely while driving an average to expensive car. They’re best able to handle the taxfine.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    speedlaw:
    The person who really sets a quota is the guy in any squad who lives to write traffic. There is always at least one.

    Are there any NY troopers who mostly write non-speed related tickets? I’ve heard some chatter that Buffalo to Syracuse enforcement on I-90 is really trying to shift the focus from speeding to other common offenses. But I really don’t believe it.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    If you ticket crap drivers, you’d come across many with suspended licenses and/or arrest warrants. Then you have to spend 1/2 a shift processing an arrest (that’s a net revenue loss and probably does NOT count toward your ticket quota.)…

    But if you work midnights, ALL of your court time that is generated is overtime. So, work nights, get paid a night differential, write away, some will take it to court, and in FL, you get paid a minimum of 4 hours court time even if you wrap up in 10 minutes. My friend has this down to a science!! Really sad.

  • avatar
    adonasetb

    I have to question the validity of… “3. WRITE TICKETS. I take some of the blame for not properly motivating ya’ll” – because no way in hell was “ya’ll” in a written bulletin.

  • avatar
    tony7914

    @tdhump65 :
    July 11th, 2009 at 5:26 am

    “Well I must say the quota got me two weeks ago on 65N in Southern Indiana.”

    65 is a bad place to speed just about anywhere in Indiana as is 70, 69, and anything close to Indy or a larger city. They tend to target these areas more because of high numbers of accidents and construction especially near Indy but they usually won’t bother you so long as you are driving with the flow of traffic. A good rule of thumb in Indiana is never do more than 5 mph over the speed limit or go faster than the surrounding traffic and definitely do not speed in a construction area, they will nail you hard for that. US 31 between Kokomo and South Bend is another area to be carefully in.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    @ihatetrees
    I don’t see the New Jersey State Police harassing people in decent to expensive cars on the turnpike. I drive it at least once a month, and it looks pretty much like the purpose of speed enforcement is to develop probable cause for vehicle searches.

    Seems to me that middle class, middle aged and older people in conservative cars and trucks speed with near impunity on the NJ Turnpike.

  • avatar
    oldlt43

    I just want to commend Dukeboy01 on his comments as he has clearly painted a very valid picture of what conscientious parol supervisors have to deal with come evaluation time. It’s always a battle to convince the town council, or a chief, that an officer’s effectiveness isn’t based on the total number of his/her traffic citations or arrests.I wish that I had Dukeboy01’s ability to, as we like to say in court, “articulate” the scenario.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    DHanson, I agree 100%.

    If the cops want to write more tickets in Minneapolis, I’d LOVE to see an increase in turn-signal tickets. Write ’em up! Thousands at a time!

    It could be like Ben Franklin’s list of 13. Every six months, tickets are focused on a particular type of traffic offense: turning through a red light, turn signals, reckless lane changing, noise… Then every six months the public (and law enforcement) would be drilled in proper traffic laws.

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