April 19, 2009

Revenue-Driven Quota, or Union Stranglehold Workaround?

Justin Katz

A busy week moved this Hopkinton tidbit to the bottom of the pile, but the multiple angles make it of broader interest:

If you drive through Hopkinton, keep this in mind: The officers you see are each required to write 20 traffic tickets per month, "more or less," under a new Police Department policy.

Excuses, like being busy doing something else, or having taken vacation days, "are not acceptable," Lt. Daniel C. Baruti said in a March 3 internal e-mail that spells out the policy.

Drivers who think they have been ticketed unfairly often suspect that they were cited because of a police quota rather than their driving. The police almost universally deny that quotas exist.

The e-mail says, in bold, italic type, "Do not forward this e-mail."

Baruti tried to put a business-as-usual face on the controversy, with the emphasis on "business" by presenting law enforcement in terms of money-making:

Baruti and the other local officials said that the policy is a management tool intended to make the police more productive. Although it has drawn some criticism, Baruti said, the policy is legal and that they have no intention of abandoning it. ...

The e-mail said that officers who don't meet the quota — an average of one ticket for every shift worked — will have to fill out daily activity sheets to account for what they have done during their shifts. Baruti acknowledged that officers would rather not have to do that.

Baruti's e-mail said that the department's "production level" has fallen and that the town manager and some members of the Town Council "are very dissatisfied with our numbers." He said he thinks a decline in the department's ticket production reflects a lack of motivation.

Baruti wrote that he plans to send the officers' statistics to the Town Council, so members can "see for themselves who is producing and who is not." DiLibero said the council hasn't acted on the issue, which he considers an administrative matter.

Police Chief John Scuncio, by contrast, fires the union flare:

Scuncio, on the other hand, said the policy is aimed at a single officer who does practically no work. One example of his lack of effort, the chief said, is that month after month, the officer writes no tickets at all. The chief said the officer's inactivity "really creates problems" because new officers "see this guy doing nothing." He didn't identify the officer, saying he didn't want to single the officer out. ...

He said he's reluctant to try to discipline the officer because of the difficulty under the legal and contractual protections provided to Rhode Island police.

Maybe I'm getting tired of games in my ornery middle age, or maybe my incredulity results from daily experience with the demands and strains that exist in the private sector, but I'm inclined to offer solutions to both justifications for this policy, no matter which is the actual one: Make all officers fill out daily activity sheets, regardless of their "productivity," and stop negotiating contracts that make it difficult to discipline egregiously "unproductive" employees.

Seems like every time the public discovers an objectionable policy or practice in the government sphere, it's excused with reference to the deeper problems that it's supposedly attempting to solve. Well, let's do away with the deeper problems, even if it annoys big contributors, people in the family-and-friends camp, and special interests.

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"the town manager and some members of the Town Council "are very dissatisfied with our numbers""

Name-dropping. The Hopkinton Town Council knows nothing about this matter.

Presumably, for whatever reason, someone doesn't want to single out one employee. So an across-the-board policy was hatched. But implementation of this policy to bring one employee "in line" would be like using a jack hammer to crack an egg.

Posted by: Monique at April 19, 2009 4:34 PM

Wonder who that one employee is related to?

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at April 19, 2009 5:17 PM

We can blame unions for anything if we think hard enough.
The policy deserves our outrage.

Posted by: rhody at April 19, 2009 9:33 PM
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