“Do you have a quota”???
“It's about revenue, isn't it”??? “They have to write tickets to pay their salaries”. These statements and others like them are things I have heard both said and asked over the years by a few people who seem to think law enforcement officers should not write tickets. At least not to them.
I always found it a little amusing that the same people seem to get a little aggravated at times when they see police officers, troopers and deputies parked alongside each other talking, eating at a restaurant or even in the courthouse. If we are “working hard” it's about revenue. If not working, or at least stopping cars we are loafing. Some of you might agree it's a good thing when you reach the day in your life when you are not overly concerned about what “everybody thinks”. I can honestly say that no supervisor on OHP has ever told me to write more tickets. The good thing is I have found that only a small fraction of people who matter think like this. I have recently heard a few questions about where revenue goes that is generated by citations. I'll list some of those things but going into great detail would be very lengthy so I'll be as brief as I can.
First of all, it is important to know the difference between municipal courts and district court. In Oklahoma, those are the only two that handle traffic citations as far as I know. If a town or city police officer writes a citation, he or she has the option of filing in either municipal or district court. Most are expected to file in their respective city court because the case will be handled there and any fees and fines collected will go into the municipal general fund.
If a trooper, sheriff or deputy sheriff issues a citation or files charges of any kind he or she must file in district court. This means the county courthouse in the county the citation was written in. As I have mentioned before your state senators and representatives, (the legislature) sets the fines and costs. Some might be amazed at how many things in state and county governments are funded by ticket revenue. Most lawmen who file county citations will tell you privately they wish the fines and costs were not so high. The fact is however that if these things were not funded by ticket revenue they would have to be funded with tax dollars. Even most hard core criminals acknowledge there has to be law enforcement and law enforcement officers. Below is a table explaining where the money collected from a basic speeding citation in county court for speeding from one to ten MPH over the posted limit would go. My thanks to our court clerk, Priscilla, for this information:
Total Fine and Costs: $161.90
Court clerk filing fee: $72.00
Sheriff's fee: $5.00
Sheriff for courthouse security: $10.00 (to improve overall security in all county courthouses)
Department of Public Safety: $20.00 (the revolving vehicle fund to replace patrol cars and equipment)
CLEET: $9.00 (Council on Law Enforcement, Education and Training) Sets basic training standards and certifications for all State, county and municipal law enforcement officers in Oklahoma.
AFIS: $5.00 Oklahoma fingerprinting system.
DA Council: $10.00
Oklahoma Court Information System: $10.00
Court Clerk Revolving Fund: $5.90
total costs: $151.90
Fine: $10.00 for a total of $161.90
Most of these fees are self-explanatory. The two largest I am sure most will notice are the court clerk's fee and the DPS portion. At a later time I'll ask Priscilla to break down how the money in her fund is spent. I expect the first question will be how troopers benefit from the $20.00 collected for DPS. This information is public record and available to anyone who asks.
As I understand it, the $20.00 collected for DPS goes into what is known as the DPS revolving vehicle fund. This fund assists with buying replacement patrol units and equipping them. I have heard recently from Oklahoma City (DPS Administration) that the cost of buying a new unit and equipping it now approaches $50,000.00 per car. That includes the cost of labor to install the equipment I would assume. These fees collected are not used to pay salaries or fund benefits.
Patrol cars are a necessity and replacement is a must. During the budget crunch year of 2003 our basic appropriation from the legislature was cut (separate from the monies collected in the revolving vehicle fund) and has not been re-implemented. The result from that means there are many patrol units on the road with well over 100,000 miles on the odometer. Mine is one example with about 114,000 on it. The trouble with that is our cars are driven much harder than the average civilian car. Many hours of idling while working accident scenes, working traffic etc. do not show up on the odometer. (Cars must be left idling to power all the lights, radios and other equipment in them) An OHP unit with 100,00 miles on it, in my personal estimation, is about like any other car with 150,00 miles on it. In short, they are worn out and the cost of maintenance becomes alarming.
I hope some of you find this information interesting. It costs money to run the justice system and it has to come from somewhere. Our legislature has decided it best that those who violate the law should fund much of it. I agree to a certain extent but in just the ten years I have been a trooper I have seen the lowest fine for speeding well over double. I know all costs have increased but most troopers and deputies who write tickets do wish they were not so high. They don't ask us these things however and as I said before the money has to come from somewhere......
Bottom line, if you don't want to contribute to these funds don't break the law!!!!!
Trooper Duane Johnson #280
Oklahoma Highway Patrol
Next Column: “What is all that stuff in an OHP car”???