Traffic ticket quotas and revenues argued in MO senate, courts

Two opposing sides in the debate to restrict revenue from municipal tickets were fighting it out in different ways last week.

Some 12 cities appeared before a Cole Count judge last Friday over whether to put a hold on a law that caps the amount of revenue cities can earn from traffic tickets. They argued that the legislation unfairly singles out the St. Louis area thereby violates the state constitution.

Missouri passed the law in response to community unrest in Ferguson over police tactics and municipal court fines. The U.S. Department of Justice has concluded municipal courts were being driven by profit motives to raise money rather than justice. Just this week, the DOJ has said it plans to sue the City of Ferguson for not implementing its suggestions to overhaul its police force and legal system.

The cities contend that an accreditation requirement for their police departments would cost them too much money and the fact that the state has not offered to pay for accreditation is unconstitutional.

The Attorney General’s office has said a police force is not required for cities and that they are allowed to contract the services to other law enforcement agencies.

While attorneys were fighting it out in a Cole County courtroom, just down the road the Missouri Senate voted to stop cities, counties and law
enforcement agencies from setting traffic-ticket quotas.

The Senators voted unanimously on Thursday to make it a crime for a public official to require any police officer to write a fixed number of citations and for supervisors from pressuring subordinates to issue more tickets.

The legislation was sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat from the St. Louis area and now will go to the state House for a vote.

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