CRYSTAL LAKE – At least one traffic stop each work day, at least one ticket every two shifts, a 30-minute patrol of residential areas and a 30-minute patrol of commercial areas.
Those are the minimums the Crystal Lake Police Department expects of its officers, Chief James Black said.
But one of those directives will have to change starting Jan. 1 because of a new law that received the governor’s signature earlier this summer.
The law prohibits municipal, county and state law enforcement departments in Illinois from requiring officers to write a specific number of tickets within a set period of time and says that the number of tickets issued cannot be used in performance reviews.
The idea is to prevent officers from being used as revenue generators and to keep an unfair burden off residents who might receive a ticket just because it’s the end of the month, state Rep. Barb Wheeler said.
The Fox Lake Republican signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill when it made its way to the Illinois House of Representatives, where it passed in a 106-9 vote. It had previously sailed through the Senate with just one “no” vote.
The bill didn’t have Black’s support though – or the support of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
“I’m not in favor of ticket quotas nor do I think police should be concerned with revenue, but where it concerns me is in managing our departments,” Black said. “It’s like telling a computer programmer that he could come in and get paid but not write any computer programming.”
The head of Bull Valley’s police department, Commander Jim Page, has some concerns, too – even as he reversed some previous practices that made Bull Valley notorious as a speed trap.
“It’s ridiculous to have a quota system, but if you’re to say you’ll never have to write another ticket. ... There will always be someone who challenges the system.”
McHenry’s chief is less concerned.
“I’ve been with the police department 25 years, and the public has always had a perception that the department had a quota,” Chief John Jones said.
His department uses points of contact to track how effective employees are and whether they’re doing their jobs, he said. Stopping a vehicle and issuing a warning can be just as effective as writing a ticket in correcting a behavior.
Jones said he also thinks the law will give officers the ability to push back against informal quota systems or ones that pop up in smaller towns where fine revenue is a bigger issue.
Wheeler also has faith that officers will continue to do their jobs despite ticket requirements being removed as a management tool, she said.
“I just think the police officers will continue to do a fantastic job protecting and serving the community, and the citizens won’t have to face an unfair burden under a quota system,” she said.