News 4 Investigates: Traffic ticket quotas for officers? - KMOV.com

News 4 Investigates: Traffic ticket quotas for officers?

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By Adam McDonald By Adam McDonald

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- As a Bellefontaine Neighbors officer for a decade, Joe St. Clair was ordered to carry out a policy that he says required cops to issue a certain number of traffic tickets, and even traffic arrests. If they failed to do it, they could be fired.

 

“I believe the chief put an illegal mandate on his officers. I think it’s unfair to the community,” St. Clair told me. 

 

The mandate was put in writing. It requires officers to take a specific number of “self-initiated activities” each month. St. Clair gave News 4 Investigates copies of spreadsheets used by the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department to track those activities. It identifies seven different activities that officers are required to do. Those include writing ordinance violations, traffic arrests, uniform traffic tickets, parking violations and traffic warnings.

 

St. Clair had to do 50 of them every month. The spreadsheet shows that Traffic Arrests represented up to 15 percent of the required activities for Bellfontaine Neighbors cops, an equivalent of up to 8 arrests per month, and that Uniform Traffic Tickets were up to 60 percent, or about 30 tickets per month.

 

St. Clair was threatened with “disciplinary action” in a notification letter because he failed to meet the 50 minimum required in September 2013. In the letter, he was told “you produced only 32 activities, which is less than 70 percent of your required minimum performance standard.” If he continued to fail to meet those minimum standards, he should “expect to be replaced, disciplined, or terminated.”

 

Despite his concerns, after getting that letter St. Clair started writing more tickets, and from that point on, he says, he always met the minimum required standard for "self-initiated activities." 

 

“I wasn’t comfortable doing it, but I had to do it. I have a wife and 2 children I had to support,” said St. Clair.

 

Police Chief Robert Pruett insisted the policy “is not a quota system.” However, he admitted during an off-camera conversation that officers have been threatened with discipline and disciplined for not meeting the minimum numbers set for them. He told me that Mayor Robert Doerr had ordered him not to give us an interview. 

 

So, News 4's Craig Cheatham went to talk with the mayor. During a brief off-camera discussion in his office, Bellefontaine Neighbors Mayor Robert Doerr repeatedly insisted the policy was legal and not a quota. He insisted the policy was needed because officers had been lazy and weren’t doing enough to protect the community. He claimed the policy was his idea. 

 

Then, he told Cheatham that “if Joe St. Clair is going to drag us through the mud, then we’re going to drag him through the mud, too.” After that, the mayor asked me to leave. We tried to talk with him one last time on-camera in the parking lot, but he stuck his hand in front of his face and drove away.

 

What mud is waiting for Joe St. Clair? Nearly six years ago, St. Clair and another Bellefontaine Neighbors cop were accused of excessive force. The alleged victim said they arrested, beat and tazed him, then dumped him in Granite City, Illinois.

 

In a lawsuit, the man said he required hospital care for 4 days. He sued the city, and Bellefontaine Neighbors settled the case for $90,000. St. Clair volunteered that information to me, and denied the allegations. He wasn’t disciplined by the city, and wasn’t forced to resign. He resigned against the mayor’s wishes (confirmed by the mayor) years later.

 

Tonight, State Sen. Eric Schmitt is calling for a full investigation of the Bellefontaine Neighbors police department policy, and it’s impact on the officers and the community.

 

Municipal Courts financial records: 2010 | 2014

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