A bill blocking all law enforcement agencies—including local—from establishing traffic ticket quotas could be close to hitting the Governor’s desk, if it soon passes the House.
Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers) is the bill’s House sponsor. He says he first got involved, when he and Senate sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), sat on the Joint Legislative Auditing Commission last year.
“Sitting on the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, we were confronted with a situation where there was a municipality—and this came out through an Auditor General’s report—that was deriving essentially the entire city budget based upon traffic citations that was being offered, which we found not something we’d want to encourage here in the state of Florida. And, the city had apparently been doing it for awhile we learned in the testimony from the county Sheriff—who appeared before our committee,” said Rodrigues, during the bill's first hearing early last month.
The city in question is Waldo—which is in Bradley’s district—and is known as one of the worst speed traps in the nation.
“And, when the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee ended its work and the session ended, something occurred with the city of Waldo that worked for the police department there that revealed that they were actually under a quota on traffic tickets that they were required to issue each shift. Now, many people believe Florida statutes prohibit the establishment of traffic quotas. But, unfortunately, there appears to be a gray area in the statute that involves municipalities and county sheriffs offices,” added Rodrigues.
And, he says he got on board with looking into legislation, letting Bradley take the lead.
“So, what Senator Bradley wanted to do was a) tighten that noose and eliminate that gray area, and b) create a process where we can learn which police departments are deriving a significant portion of their revenue from the issuing of traffic citations. In essence, we’re trying to eliminate policing for profit with this bill,” Rodrigues continued.
So, what does the measure exactly do?
“This bill clarifies that under law, traffic citation quotas are illegal in all county and municipal traffic enforcement agencies in their jurisdictions,” said Bradley, during last week's Senate Session. “It also requires a county or municipalities to submit a report to the Legislative Auditing Committee within six months after the fiscal year, if the revenues received from traffic citations are more than 33 percent of the cost to operate the local law enforcement agency.”
It has the support of law enforcement groups, like the Florida Police Benevolent Association as well as the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
It also has the support of AAA. Its legislative counsel and former House Speaker Lee Moffitt says the motor club has been working for decades to correct what he calls “traffic trap problems,” not just in Florida, but in other states.
“In Florida, those efforts included officially back as far back as 1995, designating the towns of Waldo, Lawtey, and Hampton as traffic traps, following months of investigations, in which in our opinion, prove these towns were not conducting traffic law enforcement as a means for safety, but trying to use the revenues for operation of their local governments,” explained Moffitt, during the bill's first House committee hearing.
And, he says using AAA’s online map service to plan road trips called TripTiks, the motor club wanted to make motorists aware of the areas in question.
“AAA identified those towns on TripTiks, and we had big stamps that showed you know, traffic traps so that people would avoid when they were going through Waldo, Lawtey, and Hampton, to be careful of those areas because of the traffic traps they were running,” added Moffitt.
So, in essence, Moffitt says this bill is a longtime coming.
“We tried back then to get a bill passed to stop quotas,” he stated. “But, 20 years later, it’s certainly not too late to stop this problem from ever happening again.”
So far, the Senate has unanimously passed the measure—sending that bill to the House. With weeks left in Session, the House is expected to take up the measure soon.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.