INDEPENDENCE, Ohio-- The FOX 8 I-Team is digging into the number of traffic tickets issued by Independence police and we went one-on-one with the mayor to ask if officers there are ordered to write a certain number of tickets.
That question now is also at the heart of a federal lawsuit just filed. So we’re taking a new look at what’s happening in a suburb so many people in Northeast Ohio pass through every day.
Last winter, the I-Team revealed a police memo, saying Independence officers should meet or exceed 10 traffic citations a month. Now, a former lieutenant filed a lawsuit outlining pressure to have officers write more tickets and bring in more money.
“In the city of Independence, we don’t have ticket quotas. I don’t like ticket quotas," Mayor Anthony Togliatti said on Tuesday.
The mayor called specific numbers of tickets and traffic stops, “performance standards.” But we asked, if police get judged on numbers, does it matter what you call it? Isn’t there a chance some officers will feel forced to give tickets to drivers who don’t really deserve them simply to keep up the numbers?
“Nobody’s being forced to do anything," Togliatti said.
Even citizens have gone to public meetings in Independence asking the same questions we have.
The federal lawsuit surrounding this even mentions reporting by the I-Team. We revealed earlier the police department gave one officer a written warning for “not performing to standards.”
We also revealed the city of Independence hired a firm to bring in a lie detector, trying to find out how documents about tickets ended up in the hands of FOX 8.
The Chandra Law Firm filed that suit against Independence, saying a lieutenant was forced to retire or get demoted after getting accused of leaking documents about tickets. Attorney Ashlie Case Sletvold said Lt. Len Mazzola did not leak any documents.
“For whatever reason, the powers that be in Independence used him as a scapegoat, blamed him for that," Sletvold said. She said the city has no reason to hide from the documents anyway. “Information from public records. There’s nothing secret about it.”
The mayor claims the lawsuit is a political attack since he is up for re-election.
Sletvold said no way. She has been asking for records and building the case for months.
Through it all, drivers beware. Still questions about police orders for tickets even as the mayor said, “They’re just being asked to do their jobs, to patrol the streets of the city of Independence.”