Login | December 11, 2018

Proposal would prohibit police quotas

Special to the Legal News

Published: December 6, 2018

A northeast Ohio lawmaker last week told fellow members of the Ohio House of Representatives that police officer morale and public trust have suffered long enough at the expense of ticket and arrest quotas.

Rep. Thomas West, D-Canton, offered testimony in support of his bill - a measure to prohibit the use of arrest and ticket quotas by law enforcement agencies - to members of the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee during a first hearing.

Filed as House Bill 616, the bill specifically would prohibit implementation of such quotas for the purpose of evaluating, promoting, transferring, rewarding or disciplining police officers.

"I have had conversations with law enforcement officials who have also told me that arrest and ticket quotas are harmful; not only to the people they serve, but also harmful to the officers themselves," West said. "The informal and formal use of citation and arrest quotas in law enforcement hurts police morale and erodes public trust at a time when local law enforcement need to be building stronger ties with our communities, through increased transparency and accountability."

For the purposes of the bill, a quota is defined as a mandate of a finite number of arrests made or citations issued for an offense that a police officer must meet in a specified time period.

The prohibition would include an agency or official who would require or suggest to a police officer that he is required or expected to meet a quota, according to analysis provided by the Ohio State Legislative Service Commission.

Also forbidden would be any offer of a financial reward or other benefit to a police officer determined by or based on any quota.

The lawmaker said he has the backing of law enforcement officers with whom he's spoken about his proposal.

"Our peace officers should be out in the community protecting our families and our children without having to focus on meeting unethical arrest or citation quotas in order to avoid facing punishment from their superiors," he continued. "Additionally, the pressure to arrest a certain amount of people in the community or issue a certain amount of tickets can often result in peace officers disproportionately targeting poorer communities and communities of color."

HB 616 would not prohibit an agency's collection, analysis or application of any information concerning the number of arrests made and citations issued to ensure that a particular police officer or group of officers does not violate an applicable legal obligation of the officer or officers;

Nor would it disallow assessment of the proportion of arrests made and citations issued by a police officer or group of officers.

A provision of the bill would require the state attorney general to establish an anonymous form by which any police officer may access on the AG's website to anonymously report the use of quotas in violation of the any of the bill's prohibitions.

The measure calls for an investigation of any alleged violation in addition to a determination of whether circumstances to which the prohibition does not apply exist.

All such investigations would be required to be completed within a year of the initial complaint.

"The bill requires the (attorney general) to determine the procedure for the investigation on a case-by-case basis and provide the official or agency that is the subject of the investigation an opportunity to be heard," Aida Montano wrote in the commission's analysis of the bill. "If after the investigation the AG finds that the official or agency uses quotas in violation of any of the prohibitions, the AG must order the official or agency to cease and desist from using quotas in violation of the prohibition."

"If we cannot only outlaw the use of quotas in law enforcement agencies, but also create an accessible procedure for which people can report the use of quotas anonymously, we can move forward in working with communities to gain public trust in law enforcement and consequentially allow our officers to remain safe as they serve the people of Ohio," West concluded.

HB 616, originally introduced to the House in April, had not been scheduled a subsequent hearing at time of publication.

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