TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A top official with the Florida Highway Patrol has told troopers they aren't writing enough speeding tickets.
Maj. Mark Welch of Troop H in Tallahassee told troopers under his command via email that "the patrol wants to see two citations each hour," adding that it's not a quota. He said it's "what we are asking you to do to support this important initiative."
Law enforcement quotas are illegal in Florida.
Welch said the troop was currently at 1.3 tickets per hour, "so we have a goal to reach."
The email was directed to troopers working what are called “Hot Spots” -- areas where there have been fatal injuries or where serious crashes are more frequent.
Under the SOAR -- Statewide Overtime Action Response -- initiative, troopers can make extra money by working the road.
Welch noted the 5 percent pay raise the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott recently gave troopers, saying that it "has also increased your overtime rate."
“A quota is a quota, and, unfortunately, this memo sounds like a quota,” said Matt Puckett of the Police Benevolent Association, which represents troopers.
The PBA also said the memo is distracting from the real issues: low pay and a shortage of troopers.
“The focus should be putting more troopers on the road, getting them the pay that they need,” Puckett said.
FHP Lt. Col. Michael Thomas said Welch could have used better language.
“There is nothing that says the trooper has to do this or there will be some imposed penalty to them,” Thomas said.
State figures show troopers wrote 934,965 citations in 2014 compared to 749,241 last year. FHP pointed out it gets no money from the tickets its troopers write.
After reports on Welch's email came out Thursday, Terry Rhodes, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, wrote a letter to FHP director, Col. Gene Spauling, and copied the media.
"Let me be very clear: Quotas have no place within the Florida Highway Patrol," Rhodes wrote. "Getting in the black and tan to patrol the roadways is expected. Helping to educate and assist motorists is expected. Protecting lives is expected. Quotas are not part of our mission operationally or legally."