Rants and Raves

Connecticut Bulletin: Police Break for Pizza Pie

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 4:25 pm

By Tim Stevens

While largely back-burnered by the more important issue of death penalty-repeal, ticket citations were top-of-mind earlier this month in the state of Connecticut. Specifically, how could officials motivate police to give more citations? That answer, apparently, is pizza.

State Police Lieutenant Anthony Schirillo issued an internal memo on March 29 that encouraged his fellow officers to compete with other troops around the state to issue the most traffic tickets over the course of the weekend. The shift that achieved the highest rate within the troop, based in Bethany, Conn., would receive pizza. The memo was almost immediately leaked to the Hartford Courant—an article on the memo appeared in the newspaper less than 12 hours later—and Connecticut residents awoke to find they were the goal in an appetizing contest.

This story was arresting for two reasons. First, a lieutenant thought he could motivate his fellow men and women in blue with the same tactics my fourth grade math teacher employed. Second, he very well may have been right. Sadly, the Courant’s lightening fast reflexes mean we may never know.

Oh, also, it might have been illegal. Connecticut—like most states—does not allow ticket quotas of any kind and a “contest” for issuing the most citations has the scent of quota around it. Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben F. Bradford has assured the Governor that Schirillo did not mean it that way so, evidently, all is forgiven. (Note to self: Do not intend to commit crimes while committing them; get off scot-free.)

Still, illegal or not, the scotched citation campaign speaks to a fundamental flaw in law enforcement practices. The emphasis with tickets is on “catching” people doing wrong, not preventing it. It’s important to catch those who violate the law and see them punished, certainly, but it’s preferable to stop them from breaking laws in the first place. Over and over, police presence is shown to be a major crime deterrent. Cities where more police were visible on the streets saw their crime rates dip. Cities where austerity has forced police presence to be scaled back have seen crime rise. Why not apply that lesson to the roads? Skip the unmarked cars lying in wait to catch the hot-doggers. Let’s put some cruisers on the road to keep us mindful of laws before we break them.

There will always be tickets just as there will always be crime. However, in focusing on ticketing more than prevention, we are misusing a significant resource in public health and safety. Quotas are not just illegal, they are counterproductive. Prevent crime, do not just mop up after it. And when you do, don’t expect the state to reward you with a free lunch.

Tims Stevens is a regular contributor to New Paris Press. He can be reached at ungajje@gmail.com.

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