Fair and equitable law enforcement includes policing where the standards and queues that prompt officers to issue a ticket or place an individual under arrest are consistent and not based on a conflict of interest or a secondary profit motive. Law enforcement quotas, wherein individual officers are required to issue a certain number of arrests and tickets in a specific time frame, corrupt the careful discretionary nature of proper policing, causing officers to have little choice but to aggressively seek to use the populaces they are supposed to protect as a revenue source. In many cases, officers who don’t meet quotas can lose their jobs or their ability to receive overtime pay. 

The history of this practice is intuitive and shrouded at the same time--while there is nobody who can claim they started the practice, it is more likely that many police chiefs across the nation came up with the idea themselves. Having quotas allows police units to ensure their officers are being active on the job and encourages an increased source of revenue in departments where the money from tickets and civil asset forfeiture still goes directly to the department which has collected them. The downside to this is clear, however, as officers being forced to perform a predetermined number of law enforcement actions inevitably causes interactions with civilians even in cases where they could otherwise be avoided. 

Currently, about half of the states in the union have some sort of state level moratorium on police ticket and arrest quotas. Overall, if you ask police departments across the country if they have quotas, they will overwhelming respond in the negative. However, court cases in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Iowa, and New York, all lead to guilty verdicts for at least one officer, indicating that, while the exact extent of this issue is unknowable due to an absence of comprehensive statistics, the current system of self regulation which relies on whistle-blowers who step out of line to report quotas is very likely ineffectual. The problem of police quotas was compounded beyond belief in Ferguson, Missouri, where of 21,000 people in Ferguson, 16,000 had arrest warrants for them written by the court. Officers were encouraged to issue tickets for petty offenses. Inevitably, as the world saw, this system, which assigns criminality to the majority of its members on the basis of inconsequential actions, is unsustainable and results in a huge decrease in the legitimacy of the local government and police force, leading to unrest.

In order to prevent such injustices from occurring, police quotas should be outlawed in every state, and state and local governments should put systems in place which encourage police oversight and the prevention of all quota based ticketing and arrest systems. After all, the job of the police is not to artificially criminalize or profit from their populace, but to keep their communities safe.

Sources (click to expand)

Ticket Quota Cover-up Continues with Pennsylvania State Police. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2021, from http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/news.asp?ID=587&m=print

Baker, A., & Robbins, L. (2011, January 13). A Quota by Any Other Name. City Room. https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/13/a-quota-by-any-other-name/

DOJ: Ferguson Police Routinely Discriminate Against African Americans. (n.d.). NPR.Org. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2015/03/04/390606464/doj-ferguson-police-routinely-discriminate-against-african-americans

Ferguson_police_department_report.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2021, from https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/ferguson_police_department_report.pdf


Polanco, A. (n.d.). Despite Laws And Lawsuits, Quota-Based Policing Lingers. NPR.Org. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2015/04/04/395061810/despite-laws-and-lawsuits-quota-based-policing-lingers

Ticket Quotas are Alive and All Too Well. (2020, February 21). National Motorists Association. https://www.motorists.org/blog/ticket-quotas-are-alive-and-all-too-well/

Traffic Ticket Quotas Alleged In Ongoing State Police Overtime Probe. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://www.wbur.org/news/2019/03/19/state-police-ticket-quotas