A Hard Earned Raise For Atlanta Cops

As  Radley Balko wrote when he twitted this story, what could possibly go wrong?  WSBTV.com in Atlanta reveals:

Channel 2 Action News has obtained an email sent to Atlanta police that says traffic ticket money will fund future pay raises.

No incentive there, right, because police are far too professional to let their personal financial interest color the exercise of authority and discretion.

An Atlanta police source told Channel 2’s Amy Napier Viteri there are concerns that linking pay raises to tickets creates an indirect quota system, but the Mayor’s Office and the author of the email insist there’s no push to write more tickets.

A cynic might suggest that anyone who would suggest such a thing is either a pathological liar or a blithering idiot.  A direct link between traffic tickets and pay raises makes perfect sense, however, for a city looking to shed itself of costs that would otherwise come out of its primary budget, and lay off the burden on the people who would benefit.  If cops want raises, let them work for them.

The police union president gets the message:

The email from police union President Ken Allen explains future police pay raises will be funded through traffic tickets and court revenue. It comes on the heels of the passage of the city’s budget.

“The mayor has designated traffic court/ticket revenue for future pay increases  …  (This is) the first time ever that a revenue stream has been designated to salaries,” Allen told officers in the email. “Future pay increases are in our hands. We need only enforce traffic violations as we are now, but increase our attendance in court to prevent cases being dismissed.”

A smart email.  Allen doesn’t need to explain that the more tickets they write, the more revenue the stream produces to fund pay raises. No matter whether you think cops are smart or not, they know how their bread gets buttered.  Allen recognizes, however, the need to remind cops to close the deal by showing up in court even if it conflicts with the time when the donuts come out of the oven, since there is a tendency to do only as much of their jobs as they find convenient and consistent with the new professionalism.  After all, if they’re waiting in court for traffic tickets to be called, they can’t be out on the street protecting and serving us.

A representative for the mayor’s office iterated sentiments about improving how the police department engages in traffic court, “especially regarding operations and the collections process  …  There is no push to increase revenues through the writing of additional tickets.”

If they just keep saying it, people will believe it. It must be true. It must be. Even though anyone with cognitive functions above a brick knows otherwise.

But a police source told Viteri the plan could make officers work toward increasing citations, in hopes of a higher wage. Some drivers Viteri spoke to agree.

“I’m probably going to switch from sales and join the police force in that case, if that’s the way it’s working,” Ken Miller said.

And union president Allen persists:

Allen said enforcement of traffic laws won’t change.

Tying pay increases to ticket revenue is a cop’s, and politician’s, dream. The cost of policing is a huge expense on a municipality. Cops are not only hugely expensive, even when they aren’t generating lawsuits and settlements in the millions, but their cost goes on forever as pension benefits burden administrations led by those yet unborn. 

But it’s hard, if not impossible, to beat the cops back come contract time. In negotiations, they remind us of how they risk their lives for us every day, and if we don’t like them, the next time we’re in trouble we should call a criminal. The arguments may fall short for those who insist on logic, but most of the public eats this stuff up.

To shift the burden off the general budget and onto the cops’ shoulders is the perfect administrative solution, as it allows the mayors and city council types to embrace fiery police rhetoric while being fiscally prudent.  As for the public, the scheme relies on the age-old fantasy that only the bad people, the law-breakers, will suffer, since good, law-abiding people will never be the targets of overly-ambitious enforcement.

So the mayor says so. The union president says so. And from the tenor of the news report, they aren’t quite ready to say anything else either. After all, only a cynic would besmirch the integrity of the police in the enforcement of the law and suggest that they might start handing out tickets for the most trivial of infractions.

Or worse yet, for no infraction at all, if they don’t like the way you look at them. Or just write out tickets and lose them down a sewer near the Coca-Cola museum, where the tourists go who will never come back to Atlanta to dispute the notice of a warrant in the mail. They may get angry, but it’s not like they vote for mayor in Atlanta.

What could possibly go wrong? 

7 comments on “A Hard Earned Raise For Atlanta Cops

  1. Michele DeGroat

    every day another empowerment to the cops and disempowerment of the people. This is immoral and you can bet the cops will make a meal out of it. What is the matter with the people that they just sit there and take it?

  2. Andrew Fleischman

    What’s really interesting about this is that the solicitor’s office in Atlanta actually gets money directly from traffic tickets as well, but only if they put the person into “pre-trial intervention.”

    That program leads to the dismissal of most tickets in exchange for a fine that is usually around $300.00. On a first court appearance, there may not even be a judge, just a solicitor signing up a line up people for the program.

    I am VERY curious to see how these programs will interact.

  3. Amiable Dorsai

    You need to have more faith; this method of funding law enforcement has a long and distinguished pedigree–I’m told, for example, that witch-finders were paid a portion of the estates of any witches they managed to convict.

  4. John Neff

    I guess this is fleecing the flock but I wonder how much will trickle down to cops. Not much is my guess.

  5. Tim

    For the past month or so, I’ve noticed a PLETHORA (how often do we get to use that word) of motorists pulled over by police on I-85 and 316 (I drive from Atlanta to Athens everyday). Last week I had the misfortune to become one of those people.

    On the day I was pulled over, I noticed a car pulled over or a police car waiting in the shadows about every 2 to 3 miles… My first thought was, “What?! Are they trying to raise money for something?” Well, now we know they are…

    Having cops give speeding tickets, parking fines, etc… to get a pay raise is such a HUGE mistake. This is so wrong. The concept of public servant has been thrown out and replaced with “predator of the public.”

    Cops involved in this kind of scheme have no interest whatsoever in protecting the innocent or maintaining order. They’re collecting money. They hide under overpasses at locations where the speed limit suddenly changes from 65 to 55 and every time they see a car coming, they think, “KA-CHING!”

    This is wrong. There’s going to be a backlash. You can’t bend people over and make them your money bitch forever….

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