Police departments around New Jersey are still utilizing what amounts to ticket quotas as a factor in measuring an officer's performance.

Flickr user: redjar

That's according to Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, who says he's been contacted by a South Jersey police officer, who cited concerns about his own department's reliance on quotas and the negative impact they have on actual law enforcement.

Ticket quotas are illegal in the Garden State.

"When legislators eliminated ticket quotas they left in the ability to use ticket numbers in performance evaluations of cops," explains O'Scanlon. "That is a loophole that initially was not exploited, but in the last few years municipalities have really started to exploit it. Technically it's not a quota, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck."

The Assemblyman is drafting legislation to forbid the use of ticketing numbers in performance evaluations.

"The mere knowledge that these pseudo-quotas exist puts pressure on our cops that forces them to focus more on revenue generation than safety and security," says O'Scanlon. "That's just wrong. Quotas were supposed to have been outlawed - with good reason - by the existing statute, but, in reality, it looks like many departments are secretly substantially relying on citation numbers. This isn't about officer performance, it's about money."

According to O'Scanlon, one officer told him that the evaluation systems pit one officer against another in what essentially amounts to a contest about who can punish more people faster. O'Scanlon says the practice also pulls officers from other duties like policing neighborhoods and skews traffic enforcement away from areas residents would prefer to see it, and onto main roads where the most volume, and therefore revenue, can be generated.

Director of Governmental Affairs for the state PBA, Rob Nixon helped draft the existing statute barring ticket quotas. He confirms O'Scanlon's opinion.

"The public needs to be made aware of this serious problem, and that needs to be fixed," says Nixon, "Some local officials don't seem to understand that mission - in fact the sworn oath - of police officers is to protect and serve the public to the best of their abilities. It isn't to help balance local budgets."

The mayor of Helmetta, New Jersey has come under fire recently after published reports claimed he ordered local police to target out-of-state drivers passing through the tiny town.

"The 'protect and serve' mission of our police is giving way to 'apprehend and punish,'" believes O'Scanlon. "That is a sad development. It damages the image of police officers in the eyes of the public - and sacrifices safety for revenue. Our police officers are overwhelmingly professional people who deserve to be perceived by the public as being on their side, not out to get them."