Three years ago, we exposed the police department there putting pressure on officers to write certain numbers of tickets.
Now, the city of Independence just settled a lawsuit by agreeing to pay nearly $1 million to a former police supervisor.
Lt. Len Mazzola sued the city, saying he was forced to leave the police department after he spoke out about officers being told how many tickets to write.
Attorney Subodh Chandra represented the lieutenant. Chandra says he uncovered a memo showing the lieutenant faced punishment for speaking out.
Mazzola even had to take a lie detector test. Bosses suspected him of giving documents to the I-Team. However, he had never supplied any information or documents to FOX 8.
“In this case, you have a dedicated public servant who spoke up to oppose a practice that he believed was unethical. Namely, that be believed was a quota,” Chandra said. “And, so, what we see is the beginning of the process of trying to make it right.”
Earlier, a citizen also had taken Independence to court. Mary Jane Horton argued the city didn’t give her public records she’d asked for after our reporting showed police had orders to write specific numbers of tickets.
The city, ultimately, had to pay Horton $1,000 for not providing records.
“It’s extremely important because this was a traffic ticket quota instead of a safety issue. Those are two different things,” she said. “My takeaway from this is I hope they learn from this.”
Chandra also said, “Voters should always hold accountable public officials who violate the constitution.”
Meanwhile, we wondered, what if you drive through Independence now? A spokesperson says the city now does not have any requirement of base levels of traffic tickets from officers. The former police chief has retired.
When we first started investigating this, the chief and mayor at the time called the number of tickets required “performance standards” while so many others called them quotas.
The chief also refused to answer questions for us about bringing in the lie detector to find out how the I-Team had acquired internal documents showing the number of tickets required from officers.