Arlington County chief denies quotas for cops

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Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott on Tuesday denied that his officers are encouraged to meet quotas for writing speeding and parking tickets - but only after an embarrassing intradepartmental memo outlining “proactivity expectations” was made public.

Chief Scott said he became aware of the March 1 memo on Monday and acted swiftly to rescind the letter and avoid any misconception among county residents and his 360 officers.

The expectations outlined in the memo range from arrests to field-observation reports to traffic summonses and parking citations. Though the numbers differ among day, evening and midnight shifts, according to the memo, all officers should be writing about 30 traffic and parking tickets per month.

“We do not want there to be any confusion with our officers, with the public, that we have numeric expectations and value quantity over quality, because we simply do not,” Chief Scott said, as he stood outside the Arlington police headquarters near where moments earlier a driver had been pulled over by a squad car.

First reported by WUSA-TV (Channel 9), the memo, dated March 1, outlined for patrol officers the monthly averages that should be met to avoid possible disciplinary action.

“I think it was a mistake,” Chief Scott said Tuesday. “I think the intent in the memorandum was to provide some guidelines. It was not an intent to threaten officers to hit an arbitrary number.”

Chief Scott said the memo was generated after a discussion about reasonable expectations between patrol supervisors, officers and commanders.

“In hindsight, they understand there was a better way to communicate that,” he said, adding that a consistently underperforming officer should be addressed one-on-one by his supervisor.

The commanders who wrote the memo will not be disciplined, the chief said, adding that they were “embarrassed” by the firestorm of attention the guidelines had received. Unlike Maryland, which has a law that prohibits ticket quotas, Virginia police forces are permitted to have performance expectations.

When expectations become unreasonable, Chief Scott warned, problems can occur. For example, faced with an impending deadline - which Chief Scott said could be the result of any number of legitimate reasons - an officer might take to the roads “looking for volume versus quality.”

“We do expect officers to make arrests and write tickets and do enforcement actions each and every day, but we don’t want to put an arbitrary number on it.”

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