A former police officer—reportedly fired because he refused to comply with his new chief's quotas for issuing tickets and making arrests—is speaking out.
“When I first heard about the quotas I was appalled,” former Auburn, Ala. officer Justin Hanners tells Reason, adding that he and other cops on the force were ordered to hassle, ticket, or arrest specific numbers of residents per shift. “I got into law enforcement to serve and protect, not be a bully.”
Hanners says morale was high when he joined the force in 2006, but it flagged four years later when Tommy Dawson became police chief and instituted the quota system, which was enforced down the chain of command.
Hanners dropped dime about the quotas and was later fired, he says, for refusing to comply and keep his mouth shut.
He says each officer was required to make 100 monthly "contacts" (i.e., writing tickets, making arrests, conducting field interviews, and issuing warnings), which equates to 72,000 contacts a year in a town of 50,000 residents.
"If you didn't get the number of tickets, if you didn't get the 100 contacts, you would get mandatory overtime, you'd get written up," Hanners told Reason. "But...the officer who wrote the most tickets and the one that came in second were given gift cards for steak dinners and things like that."
Hanners quota assertions are corroborated by audio recordings he made of his superior, Sergeant Trey Neal, outlining the new system:
"Officers will have 100 contacts per month, minimum," Neal says on an audio clip. "Forty of those may be warnings for traffic. The other 60 will be divided between traffic citations, non-traffic citations, field interviews and custodial arrests. Do not be the one that does not get 100."
"It's Saturday night. Let's go out there and make some contacts, put some asses in jail. Write some tickets and all that neat fun stuff we signed up to do when we signed up to do this job."
Hanners insists the quotas are revenue driven. "They're telling us they don't want these little fix-it tickets," he said. 'They want meat tickets. Something with a fine. They'll look over your traffic log and if you've got a bunch of low-fine or no-fine tickets, they'll tell you to switch and do more speeding, more red lights."
One story Hanners shares with Reason captures the issue in a striking way.
He and his partner once approached a pedestrian who appeared slightly intoxicated, and after Hanners made his "contact," he was satisfied the man could move on without further questioning.
Hanners' supervising officer, who witnessed the encounter, was not satisfied.
He told Hanners to arrest the man "for your stats"; Hanners refused, saying "he doesn't need to go to jail."
Hanners' partner, scared to lose his job, made the arrest.
Hanners filed a grievance in 2012. He was fired shortly after.
A father of two, Hanners is still unemployed and looking to sue the department.
The police chief in question, Tommy Dawson, retired in May 2013 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The Auburn police department declined requests to be interviewed, Reason said.
Here's the video report from Reason: