Legislators: State Patrol policy lists quota, is ‘against the law’

Employee evaluation form says troopers need to make 1 traffic stop per hour
Legislators: State Patrol policy lists quota, is ‘against the law’

The authors of the Wisconsin law banning police agencies from requiring their officers to write a certain number of tickets and warnings said a State Patrol pilot program violates their 1999 anti-quota legislation.

Former Rep. Duwayne Johnsrud (R-Eastman) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) criticized the standards that troopers in the patrol’s southwest region, including Madison, have been evaluated on over the last year. The “Employee Performance Expectations” form states that troopers will maintain an average of one traffic stop per hour. It also expects officers to maintain the region’s average number of tickets written (1/1.8 hours) and warnings (1/.8 hours).

“It’s a quota,” said Johnsrud, who retired from the Legislature a decade ago. “That’s exactly what the law was intended to fight and prevent.”

Johnsrud said the legislation came at the wishes of the State Patrol Troopers Union as the officers were afraid they were being asked to write tickets to keep their jobs at the expense of other safety-related work. It specifically states that “no state agency… may require a law enforcement officer to issue a specific number of citations, complaints or warning notices during any specified time period for violating of traffic regulations.”

“I would think the higher-ups at the State Patrol who are pushing this are violating state law,” Erpenbach said. “They’re turning (the troopers) into meter maids, nothing more than parking officials who go around and write tickets. That’s all they do, and there are better things for police officers to do.”

State Patrol Capt. Charles Teasdale, the agency’s commander of the Southwest Region, said the employee evaluation is not a requirement. He pointed to a different section in the law that states, “A state agency… may, for purposes of evaluating a law enforcement officer’s job performance, compare the number of citations, complaints or warning notices… issued by all law enforcement officers employed by the state agency… who have similar job duties.”

“The Division of State Patrol provides fair and impartial employee performance evaluations that encompass every aspect of the job,” Teasdale wrote in an email to News3. “The State Patrol does not support quotas, and believes that setting any quota pertaining to requiring a specific number of citations or warnings takes away officer discretion and the educational component that contributes to highway safety and the reduction of traffic fatalities.”

However, Johnsrud, Erpenbach and the head of the troopers union said by placing the specific numbers of one citation per 1.8 hours and one warning per .8 hours, any officer who wants a raise or a promotion will know what they have to do.

“So, if they realize they’re not writing enough citations and warnings, they could lose their job or not get a raise, they’re going to be out writing more tickets, which is not what we want,” said Glen Jones, president of Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association’s Local 1 and a trooper for the last 28 years. “We want them to enforce the law fairly, reasonably, rationally and not based on their own fear of staying employed.”

Jones said there had always been the expectation for troopers that one ticket a day would keep the sergeant away. Now with the numbers spelled out in the employee evaluation form, he said it’ll take four citations to keep the sergeant away.

“We want the public to have confidence that the officers are out doing their job because the violation they observe deserved a ticket not because they looked at a stopwatch and realized they better write a citation to that person or their supervisor’s going to be breathing down their neck,” Jones said. “This is a case of our employer telling people to violate the law.”

The evaluation form has just been in effect in the southwest region, but Jones said conversations with management indicated that they wanted to implement it statewide. For Johnsrud, who said all the police agencies told him in 1999 that they did not have a quota, this is a case of deja vu.

“We all knew better. We all knew better,” he said. “I think there’s some real trouble there with this type of grading of employees. It’s contrary to the law, and I don’t know how they’re getting away with it.”