Fifteen Arlington police officers are on leave after the department accused them of lying about traffic stops. The Arlington Police Department says that officers reported more traffic stops than they actually conducted.
If those claims are found to be true, those officers could face felony charges for tampering with government records. Now, the Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association has stepped in, saying that if any wrongdoing did occur, that the burden weighs on the department more than the officers.
Randall Moore, an attorney representing some of the officers, says that the culture of the department encourages officers to overreport traffic stops.
“They’re being accused of making ‘fictitious traffic stops,’ and the environment exists there for the incentive for that to occur,” Moore says.
While quota systems – both formal and informal – are illegal, Moore says that APD was using a sort of implied quota. When officers didn’t meet that number, they were at risk of losing well-paying off-duty jobs.
“We have evidence that supervisors have dangled the right and the privilege of having an off-duty job, and having that taken away from them if they don’t meet a certain number of stops and citations that their supervisors require,” Moore says.
In addition to the pressure to perform a certain amount of traffic stops, Moore says that flawed reporting methods can also lead to officers over-reporting stops.
“If you accidentally hit the wrong button (on the computer) and it shows ‘traffic stop,’ there’s no way to go undo it, there’s no delete, there’s no undo, no escape,” he says. “So you have to enter the six parameters (of a traffic stop) … There’s multiple ways that you could accidentally show a traffic stop, based upon the way the program’s set up.”
Moore says that traffic stops shouldn’t be about reaching quotas or making money.
“The department should not create the incentive and the environment where officers feel that they have to pull over people just to get a certain numbers of citations,” Moore says. “That’s not the purpose of a traffic stop. The purpose of a traffic stop is to correct driving.”
Prepared for web by Alexandra Hart.