I-Team: Counting traffic tickets in busy Northeast Ohio suburb

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - The FOX 8 I-Team is investigating if some police officers are feeling pressured to write more traffic tickets in a suburb many of you pass through every day.

We’re asking questions about what we found in Independence.

A police memo shows a “…Productivity Standard…Patrol Officers shall meet or exceed 10 traffic citations/month.”

Another memo refers to “…at least 2-3 traffic enforcement actions per shift.” Those can include warnings or crash investigation and more, not just tickets.

Drivers such as Yolanda Hamilton reacted, saying, “It is troublesome because then it puts pressure on the officers that they feel obligated that they have to pull people over.”

The I-Team went to Independence Police Chief Michael Kilbane. He argues, officers do not face random quotas. He says more traffic enforcement means more safety, and he wants patrol officers held to an equal standard.

We asked about one officer given a written warning.

Chief Kilbane said, “For not performing to the standards that we expect of our officers. It means all of the other officers are carrying an unfair share of the burden. You’re getting paid to do a job. It’s reasonable to expect a certain performance level for that pay.’

So, what led to this? The I-Team has learned talk about it began in the police department months ago. Documents show the chief said he had been questioned by the mayor about why the number of traffic tickets had gone down by hundreds.

We also asked the chief, if the mayor is saying numbers are down, and you’re telling officers to step it up, is that more about safety or numbers? He responded, “If you pick that number and cherry-pick ‘em, you can make that argument.”

Maclane Nugent, another driver, said, “I don’t think there should be quota for something like that.”

The Independence mayor did not return a message.

We’ve learned the officer given a warning has filed a grievance, an appeal. We’ve requested a copy of that, and we’re watching to see how that gets handled.

However you see the ticket totals, maybe it’s best to take the approach of another driver we met, Elizabeth Martin. She said, “So as long as you’re driving carefully, it should be no problem."

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