The battle over traffic tickets in Michigan continues to rage.
Last week, a bill passed the Legislature banning police departments from disciplining officers who don’t write up enough moving violations.
If Gov. Jennifer Granholm signs the bill, it would eliminate ticket quotas from being used to evaluate police officers. But experts said the measure, House Bill 5287, would have an impact only if it’s followed. They point to another law, Public Act 85, which has been largely ignored since it was passed in 2006.
“My guess is that some jurisdictions will ignore the new law,” said Steve Purdy, director of the National Motorists Association’s Michigan chapter. “I don’t think they’ll be foolish enough to put quotas into their employee handbooks, but when there’s revenue involved, municipalities will find ways around the laws.”
Public Act 85 requires municipalities to conduct speed studies on roads in order to set proper speed limits, although most communities have not complied, according to the Michigan State Police.
Meanwhile, Grand Haven Public Safety Director Dennis Edwards said he was placed on unpaid administrative leave two weeks ago because he told his officers to stop writing tickets on roads that hadn’t been studied under the law.
“I sent out a memo to the officers telling them not to enforce speed limits on streets that hadn’t been studied,” said Edwards, 60. “The law says there needs to be a study conducted in order for a speed limit to be valid, and I was afraid if we kept writing tickets on roads that hadn’t been studied, we were opening ourselves up for lawsuits.”
The same day the memo went out — Nov. 26 — Edwards was placed on administrative leave, although he called it a firing.
“I’m not being paid; I was told to clean out my office and turn in my uniform,” he said. “What would you call it?”
Edwards said he’s meeting with an attorney today “to see what my options are.”
Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis would not comment, other than to say, “Our public safety director has been placed on administrative leave.”
James Tignanelli, president of the Michigan Police Officers Association, the state’s largest police union, which supported House Bill 5287, said some officers have been pressured in recent years to write more tickets to increase revenue. Tignanelli said he hoped the bill banning quotas would eliminate some of that pressure.
“When you have quotas, you take away the police officers’ discretion,” Tignanelli said. “The reason you’re supposed to enforce traffic codes is for the safe and efficient movement of vehicles but, unfortunately, we’ve gotten away from that in the past few years, and revenue has been the driving force.
“Some administrator sitting behind a desk looking at the budget shouldn’t be telling police officers they have to write a ticket for every car they stop,” Tignanelli said. “Sometimes, common sense tells an officer that a ticket isn’t the best course of action, but if there’s a quota in place, that usually isn’t possible. We need more common sense, not less.”
While the number of tickets written statewide dropped 17 percent from 2002, the earliest year for which comparable data is available, to 2009, statistics from the State Court Administrative Office show some communities have become significantly more aggressive about ticketing drivers in recent years.
For instance, in Detroit, the number of moving violations issued increased 45 percent from 2002 to 2009. The city of Wayne had a 52 percent jump during that period, while Hamtramck had a 56 percent increase. The number of tickets issued in River Rouge during that period rose 133 percent.
via The Detroit News
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