Police making more traffic stops in Belleville - KMOV.com

Police making more traffic stops in Belleville




(KMOV)-- In January, 2010 the Belleville Police Department says officers wrote nine speeding tickets and gave out 13 warnings. Last month, officers wrote 45 tickets and gave out 165 warnings.

So, what's behind the increase in traffic stops?

Belleville's police chief recently instituted a new rule, requiring officers to make 30 additional stops per month. The stops include traffic tickets, warnings, and field interviews. The stops must be self-initiated and done between answering other calls.

Two years ago, Chief William Clay did away with a traffic ticket quota but say citation numbers drop drastically.

The new rule, according to a police spokesman, is meant to encourage officers to be proactive and also give them discretion to choose between writing a ticket or giving a warning.

"Accountability is not a bad thing," said Mayor Mark Eckert.

When asked if the new rule is meant to generate revenue for the city, he said, "Not at all because, you know, at this time we don't have a municipal court. So, it goes to the county. We get a very small percentage back from the county and state."

A Belleville Police spokesman said the department has also seen an increase in the number of warrant arrests. The arrests of wanted individuals increased by 40% in January 2011 compared to January 2010.

"There has to be some way of assessing and evaluating whether they're doing that job and law enforcement and policing is no different." said Tim Maher, an associate teaching professor in the department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Maher says quotas can be a good way for departments to measure officer performance, as long as the standards are reasonable. He said an additional 30 stops a month would be a reasonable request for most officers. A police spokesman said the requirement would mean officers have to make an average of two additional stops, per 12-hour shift.

Maher said administrators would need to take into account whether certain officers work busier beats on busier shifts. If officers are busy answering calls, Maher said they should not be penalized for falling short of the new quota.

Maher did find one statistic alarming.

The number of stops increased dramatically once the new rule took effect. Last month, officers made around 1,600 traffic stops. In all of 2010, officers made just over 2,200 stops.

"Either they were not addressing an on-going problem in the past, where they could make legitimate traffic stops and perhaps even write legitimate traffic tickets or give warnings. Or, now they're making stops that are not based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion. I hope that its the former, that they were just letting some things slip by before," said Maher.

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