Times Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Times
A group of Los Angeles police officers in the north San Fernando Valley has filed a class- action grievance alleging that they have been improperly pressured by the command staff to meet quotas in writing traffic tickets.
The grievance was raised by the Police Protective League on behalf of 30 officers working at the Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire Division. Hank Hernandez, a lawyer for the union, confirmed Friday that the grievance was filed with the division because of concern that officers were facing potential harm to their careers if they failed to increase the number of tickets they wrote.
"It's an attempt to coerce and threaten officers to get them to write more tickets," Hernandez said.
Capt. Joseph Hiltner said he did not believe that the complaint about supervisors raising productivity issues with officers could be settled through the grievance process, but Hernandez said he would take it to Chief William J. Bratton if Hiltner rejected the complaints.
Hernandez said members of the command staff attended roll calls at Devonshire Division and tried to intimidate officers with comments including "Things roll downhill" and "Ticket a day keeps the sergeant away."
The supervisors implied that promotional advancement might be hindered if more tickets were not written, union officials said.
"It's based on supervisors threatening officers to write more tickets or else -- and then documenting negative comments on comment cards," Hernandez said. About 30 officers received so-called comment cards alleging low productivity in ticket writing.
Comment cards go into the officers' personnel files and can be considered in periodic performance evaluations.
The comment cards and roll call comments violate state law "in that command staff are implementing a quota system," Tim Sands, union vice president, wrote in the current issue of the union newsletter, the Thin Blue Line.
State law prohibits the setting of quotas in issuing citations and using the number of citations as the sole criterion for promotion or demotion, Sands said. The union's contract with the city also prohibits quotas.
Hiltner said that after supervisors noticed a drop in productivity in several areas, including the writing of traffic tickets, the concern was put on comment cards filed with officers.
Ticket writing in Devonshire is down this year, the captain said, just as it is department-wide. Last year, LAPD officers wrote 502,499 traffic tickets. Through Oct. 17 of this year, the number was 382,993. If that pace continues, the department will finish the year with 482,042 tickets.
"Traffic enforcement is important to us. I was at the scene of a fatal accident on Sunday. That's why I want my officers enforcing traffic laws, to save lives," Hiltner said. He added, "We have no quotas."
Calif. officers claim ticket quota pressure, file grievance