- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Highway Patrol has begun requiring troopers to meet yearly numbers on traffic stops and issuing citations, an internal document shows.

Law enforcement and civil liberties groups express concern about the practice. Statistics-driven traffic enforcement could increase the risk of questionable stops, they say.

Troopers in Division 1, which includes Laramie and Albany counties, are expected to each make at least 732 traffic stops and issue at least 55 seat belt violations per year to be deemed “competent.”

Troopers must write 60.5 citations to be considered “commendable” and 66 to get a “superior” rating, according to the document obtained by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (https://tinyurl.com/plzulh2).

Wyoming Highway Patrol Col. John Butler, who leads the agency, confirmed the directive took effect Aug. 1 but said it is not a quota policy.

It’s just a way to show whether the patrol is meeting its goals, he said.

“When you do goals, you have to have measurements,” he said. “So with that in law enforcement, no matter how we try to hide it or try to avoid it, we have numbers.”

He said the goals are easily achievable and shouldn’t be burdensome to troopers.

Performance goals are not new for the agency. What is new is how the goals are tied to the Wyoming Performance Management Instrument, a system implemented two years ago to measure job performance of state workers.

“How well you do in it or don’t do in it can affect your rating, which can affect whether you get a raise or don’t get a raise,” Butler said.

Tying traffic stops or citations to troopers’ job performances is dangerous, said Bill Johnson, executive director of the Virginia-based National Association of Police Organizations.

“You are introducing something into the equation other than the driver’s behavior,” he said.

The practice risks encouraging troopers who haven’t met their numbers to charge offenses they otherwise wouldn’t, Johnson said.

The policies also sow resentment among troopers, he said.

“That tells them, ‘Hey, you don’t trust my discretion, and you don’t trust what I’ve been doing on the job for the past six years,’” Johnson said.

Quota systems also could be implemented to generate more money for the state, said Jennifer Horvath, staff attorney for the Wyoming chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We train the troopers to make public safety their priority,” she said. “But these quotas are shifting that from fighting crime to focusing on money and these numbers.”

Butler said revenue from citations issued by the Wyoming Highway Patrol do not go back to the agency. Part goes to the state court system and the rest to public schools.

Public safety is the sole motivation behind the standards, Butler said.

As of Oct. 31, 126 people died this this year on Wyoming highways, up 54 percent over the same period last year. Sixty-four of those killed weren’t wearing seat belts.

“That is why this is such a concern to us,” Butler said.

___

Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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