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FOX 13 Investigates: Police quotas are illegal, but Ogden says it has a ‘point system’ instead

Lawmakers believe ‘system’ is an attempt to treat drivers as a piggybank for the city
Posted at 8:58 PM, May 15, 2023

OGDEN, Utah — Police quotas have been banned in Utah since 2018, but the Ogden Police Department believes it found a different way to keep officers writing more tickets.

Officers, lawmakers, and drivers disagree. They feel the department is acting against the spirit of the law at best, or breaking the law at worst.

In compiling this report, FOX 13 News interviewed seven current/former Ogden PD officers who were too afraid to reveal their names or appear on camera. They each shared stories of how their supervisors pressured them to write more tickets.

Some officers said they felt the "quota" came from “the right place.” Other officers said they were made to feel like their job was more about “raising revenue” than “public safety.”

“Drivers are not stupid,” said one officer. “They know exactly what’s going on.”

CJ Palfreyman is one of those drivers. He has lived in Ogden for most of his life and always suspected rules were not being enforced consistently.

“It’s the beginning of the month. No cops are out. It’s quiet,” Palfreyman said. “Towards the end of the month? They’re everywhere.”

“I think that’s ridiculous, totally ridiculous, and they need to quit doing it,” said driver Jan Piepgrass. “Please do away with the point system and obey the laws!”

While drivers and officers call it a "quota," Ogden Police Chief Eric Young refers to it as a “point system.”

The more tickets officers write, the more points they get in the “traffic” category on their annual evaluation.

Officers are also graded on the number of “self-initiated” calls they respond to and the number of calls they respond to via dispatch.

“It’s non-stop stress,” said one officer. “How am I going to get my tickets? How am I going to get my numbers?”

Internal documents supplied to FOX 13 News show patrol officers receive four points for writing a traffic citation, but only two points for a warning.

Officers can also get half a point for a parking ticket or 10 points for a DUI arrest.

“If that’s not a quota, I don’t know what is,” said one officer. “If you don’t get a certain amount of tickets, you’re going to be on a work-improvement plan for sure.”

“Why would I ever give someone a warning when a ticket is worth double the points?” said another officer. “I was told many times that the (Ogden) Justice Court was in the red, and that was the driving force.”

According to data from the Utah State Auditor, Ogden received more revenue per capita last fiscal year than any other large city in Utah.

Chief Young defended his department’s “point system” in an interview with FOX 13 News.

He said the system has been in place since 2016 and that it has nothing to do with raising revenue for the city.

Instead, he stated the goal is to make sure officers are working hard.

“It’s a critical part of keeping our community safe,” said Chief Young. “They need to be written to keep people safe... For 80 to 90 percent of officers, writing citations is work. It’s something they’re required to do that they don’t always enjoy doing, but it’s an important part of the job.”

“So an officer isn’t necessarily required to write a certain number of tickets, but they have to get a certain number of points?” asked FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

“They do,” Chief Young responded.

Chief Young stated the traffic and self-initiated case numbers are only a “small part” of the evaluation. For example, other categories on an officer's evaluation form include decision making, investigations, report writing, and public relations.

Some officers said they were made to feel like traffic tickets were the most important, with their promotions and raises being directly tied to those numbers.

“If you didn’t get tickets, they’d mark you down in every area,” said one officer. “For example, an officer that didn’t meet their ticket quota would get marked down in the category of decision making.”

“The same thing happened to me,” said another officer. “Just because I decided not to meet their expectations. Supposedly, I made that decision.”

Former officers point to the department’s high turnover rate as an example of poor morale.

Chief Young disagreed, stating Ogden PD is one of the only law enforcement agencies in Utah that is currently fully staffed. He believes his officers have enjoyed being rewarded for hard work.

“You have babies training babies in Ogden,” said one officer. “The young ones don’t know any different, but nobody with experience wants to stay there.”

“It’s an issue with priorities,” said another officer. “I’m not a big fan of writing tickets to somebody when I can go and find somebody that’s got felony warrants or somebody that has drugs or something like that. I’d much rather be doing that, taking those people off the street, than giving somebody a ticket.”

One officer, who showed FOX 13 News a copy of his annual review, was found to have “exceeded expectations” in almost every category.

Despite earning more than enough points for a positive score through the “point system,” he was still asked to “work on writing at least two traffic citations a week” at the bottom of his evaluation.

“I don’t know why they’d be asked to do more,” said Chief Young. “Not a single evaluation crosses my desk unless the employee has at least two goals to work on for the next year, and I don’t care if they got a perfect score.”

“But if an officer is already meeting expectations, or in this case exceeding expectations, why would they be asked to write more tickets?” Herbets asked.

“They shouldn’t be,” Chief Young responded.

Chief Young said he remembered "working with the legislature” when quotas were banned in 2018 and that he “understood what the concerns were.”

Howard Stephenson is the former state senator who authored the bill. When FOX 13 News showed him the "point system," he was not happy.

“I think it’s pretty obvious to your viewers what’s going on here. This is associated with raising revenue,” Stephenson said. “They are emphasizing quotas... The idea that these men and women in blue have to be revenue raisers is un-American.”

Kim Coleman, a former member of the Utah State House of Representatives who describes herself as a pro-law-enforcement legislator, was disappointed with what she saw on the officer-evaluation forms.

“That’s a quota,” Coleman said. “That looks like a significant part of an (officer’s) evaluation."

Both Republican lawmakers said it was time to either hold Ogden PD accountable or time to go back to the drawing board with a new bill to address loopholes.

“That’s a quota by any other name,” Coleman said. “What we shouldn’t have is quotas in law enforcement.”

In response, Chief Young stated he has not seen or heard any level of concern from the community.

“I don’t feel that (our system), in any way, violates the spirit of what that legislation was,” he said. “If anybody in my community has a question or concern about the way we wrote tickets, I think I’d hear from them. I’m not hearing from them.”

Chief Young said the point system is based off average numbers and that he feels it’s working because crime is down.

“But even if you’re converting it from points to tickets, I still don’t understand how that isn’t a quota under the definition of the law,” Herbets asked.

“To get above that ‘moderate’ level, you’d only have to write two (tickets) a week – which would be eight a month,” Chief Young said.

“We’re very aware of what the code is, and we’re very comfortable with the way we do it.”

Stay with FOX 13 News for updates on this developing story.

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