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FOX 13 Investigates: Emails reveal Ogden Police Department's ticket-for-revenue strategy

Posted at 8:26 PM, Jun 27, 2023

OGDEN, Utah — For the past several months, FOX 13 News has been investigating how drivers, state legislators, and police officers believe Ogden is breaking the law by employing a “point system” that evaluates officers based on the number of tickets they write.

Utah banned police quotas in 2018, but several current and former officers describe an internal workplace culture of trying to keep their job by nitpicking drivers for the smallest violations while the city counts cash.

Chief Eric Young and Mayor Mike Caldwell have defended the “point system,” arguing it is not the same as a quota and has nothing to do with raising revenue.
Emails obtained by FOX 13 News through a state public records request show that’s not exactly true.

February 16, 2020

“The standard in traffic has always been one citation per street hour, so if an officer works 75 street hours they should have a minimum of 75 citations,” wrote Lt. Cameron Stiver in an email to Lt. Will Farr. “What the (attached) graph shows is that on average the traffic officers are exceeding the number of citations per street hours, which is truly representative of the work being done.”

In the same email, Lt. Stiver reiterated the department’s minimum expectations.

“The standard for traffic has always been, one citation per street hour, minimum,” he wrote. “What often happens is that the officers are writing well over the minimum of one citation per street hour, even though they are not writing loads of citations.”

Chief Young has repeatedly stated officers are only required to write “two tickets in a 40-hour week.”

February 2, 2023

Approximately three years later, Lt. Stiver wrote an email to Chief Young outlining how many tickets an officer would need to write to “pay for themselves.”

“You asked me to run some numbers to see if a traffic officer who only writes citations would pay for themselves,” Lt. Stiver wrote. “I have attached a small proposal with some numbers for you to peruse.”

The presentation lists the following goal: “Have citations pay for officer’s wages, benefits, equipment, and vehicle.”

According to the presentation, an officer would need to write one ticket per hour (2,080 tickets per year) to accomplish the goal, based on an average fine of 130 dollars.

“If an officer writes 2,080 citations per years, and each citation is $130, that equates to $270,400. Of that total, Ogden city would see approximately $180,266.66 or 2/3 of the total.”

“That email didn’t ever leave my desk,” Chief Young said. “That was the end of it. Nothing has happened to it since then.”

But according to Lt. Stiver’s previous email, the department was already meeting or “exceeding” that "minimum" standard.

Meanwhile, Ogden PD officers said they were disgusted to see their traffic stops being converted into dollars and cents, especially after Chief Young and Mayor Caldwell insisted the department does not track revenue.

“There’s just no excuse for that,” said one officer. “This is what makes people hate (the police)… There’s no trust. We don’t even trust our own administration, so why would we expect the public to trust our administration?”

That same officer showed FOX 13 News a copy of his annual evaluation. It showed how he was asked to write more tickets despite “exceeding expectations” in that category.

Ogden PD declined to provide copies of other officer evaluations in response to a FOX 13 News public records request. We plan to appeal that decision.

“People want to pitch it as a revenue builder. That’s not it at all,” said Mayor Caldwell prior to FOX 13 News receiving the emails.

Mayor Caldwell has not responded to requests for comment since.

“It’s an absolute joke,” said one officer. “I’m surprised that the chief was willing to go before the city council, and the public, and lie like that.”

April 13, 2023

Officer Alex Wolfe wrote an email a sergeant explaining how many citations he wrote that day.

“Howdy Sarge,” he wrote. “I had 1 Non-Reportable Hit and Run. And 12 Cites for 4-12 and 4-13.”

The subject line reads: “Quota.”

April 28, 2023

Officer Alex Yapias received the following text message: “You got your traffic score up to (meets expectations). You’re all set. Thanks!”

“Haha, sounds good!! I’ll put a little more makeup on the pig today,” Officer Yapias responded.

“Perfect!!” the department responded.

Putting “makeup” or “lipstick on a pig” generally means making superficial or cosmetic changes to something “in an effort to disguise its fundamental failings.”

Response from Chief Young

Chief Young stated he would not do another interview on this topic unless it was broadcast live.

He came into the FOX 13 News studios on Tuesday reiterating that tickets are not the only thing his officers are graded on.

“When the department uses words like ‘standards’ and ‘minimums,’ can you understand why the officers themselves feel like this is a quota?” asked FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

“Well, they may feel like it is,” Chief Young responded. “Most officers don’t like writing traffic citations... but we have to have people be accountable to keep our community safe.”

Tuesday's live interview can be watched in full below:

Chief Young (interview only)

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