Fla. Senate unanimously passes ban on ticket quotas

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Prompted by a well-known speed trap in the North Florida town of Waldo, the Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that would prevent local police from using traffic-ticket quotas.

State law-enforcement agencies are barred from using ticket quotas, but restrictions on cities and counties have not been so clear. Senate Bill 264, filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, would extend the prohibition to those agencies.

Also, the bill would require individual local governments to submit reports to the Legislature if traffic-ticket revenues cover more than 33 percent of the costs of operating their law-enforcement agencies.

Drivers News4Jax spoke with are on board with the changes.

"I don't think making quotas is a good idea in any kind of law enforcement, because you're putting pressure on the cops to go out and write frivolous tickets for things that are stupid," said Robert Opp, owner of R&R Superior Trucking.

It's nicknamed the Waldo-bill, after the Alachua County town along U.S. 301 was involved in a scandal where officers complained they were forced to write a certain number of citations every day. City leaders voted to remove the police department, opting for increased patrols from the county sheriff's office.

Several residents in Waldo said things have actually gotten better since the town did away with the ticket-writing police department. They support the new bill to make quotas illegal.

People like Ken April said they're glad the city police department is no more.

"I would say (things are) somewhere between gotten better and stay the same," April said. "I had never really seen where they did a whole lot besides to write tickets."

Opp agreed, saying, "I've seen them write tickets for people doing 3 miles an hour over."

He added that he thinks the town is just as safe without the local police.

The small-town citation shakeup made national news and now Bradley, whose district includes Waldo, is trying to keep the scenario from happening again.

Lawtey Police Chief Shane Bennett, whose town is 18 miles northeast of Waldo, said the bill is a good thing.

"I'll tell you, we're happy about it," Bennett said. "Quotas are a bad idea. They've always been a bad idea."

Many people have called Lawtey a speed trap for years, but he said that's not the case, and he's trying to change that reputation. Bennett said the bill shows citations shouldn't be about money. They're about safety.

"Motorists that come through Lawtey are not stopped unless they're going at least 11 over the posted speed limit," Bennett said. "Most are 15 or higher through the posted speed limit in the city. And we are also encouraging our officers to write more traffic warnings. We are encouraging officers to do a bit more public service when they get out. Like 'Hey, slow down. Please wear your seat belt. Please don't text and drive.'"

Bennett said most of his budget does come from citations, but he has nothing to hide, so he'll gladly send those numbers to the state.

Bradley said he expects the Florida House to vote on the bill within a couple of weeks. After that, Gov. Rick Scott would sign it into law. He is confident that will happen and said it could become a law as early as July.

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