Do Police Officers Make Money From Tickets?

Do Police Officers Make Money From Tickets?

When picking my son up from kindergarten, I watched several police cars pull over parents as they left the parking lot. Though I wondered why, I had places to go, so I just picked up my son, pulled out into the street, and, guess what? The police pulled me over! After I asked him what I’d done, he told me that, like every other parent, I had not come to a complete stop at the stop sign. Then he said, “But I’m gonna let you slide this time. We all have to catch a certain amount, so you’re lucky that I got mine.” I thanked him and left feeling very glad I didn’t get a ticket. But I had this sinking feeling that the police were getting compensated for ticketing as many people as they could. Is this true, I wondered? Do police officers make money from tickets?

In a short answer, no. Police officers are not allowed to make money from issuing tickets. This is known as a ticket quota, whereby police officers are ordered to write a certain number of tickets per hour, resulting in some form of reward such as extra money. States such as Florida, New York, California, and Texas have taken things so far as to implement a statute forbidding this practice. However, that’s not to say that it still doesn’t happen in every state across the United States, including those with a statute forbidding ticket quotas. Let’s take a look into this further.

If Police Officers Aren’t Allowed to Get Paid for Writing Tickets, Why Is It Still Happening?

If Police Officers Aren’t Allowed to Get Paid for Writing Tickets, Why Is It Still Happening?

Just because ticket quotas are not allowed doesn’t mean it is not happening. Police officers in some communities are seen as revenue agents trying to extrapolate more money from the community’s citizens by finding frivolous driving infractions. The federal government issues over $600 million a year in highway safety grants that are subsidized by ticket writing. So in this example, the money from tickets is not going into the pockets of the issuing officer per se. However, officers have another personal incentive to comply with a ticket quota — their jobs.

At least 20 states use ticketing to measure police performance. They are evaluated on the number of traffic stops they make per hour. Districts around the country rely on ticket revenue to pay for government services, and in some large cities, police departments need these revenues to maintain their extra-large department.

Examples of State Municipalities That Were Caught Issuing Ticket Quotas

Valley Brook, Oklahoma

An article dated October 2021 reported that this small town of about 870 people collects nearly $1 million from traffic citations each year. This amounts to 72 percent of the town’s total share of revenue acquired. The majority of this revenue comes from one block of roadway that is largely policed.

Henderson, Louisiana

This town of about 2000 people is situated along Interstate 10. In 2019 they collected $1.7 million in fines which makes up about 89 percent of their general revenue. In this same town, police officers were arrested in 2012 for receiving cash rewards for issuing traffic citations.

The investigation began in 2011 when the Office of Inspector General received complaints alleging that officers were receiving payments from the city for issuing traffic citations. It seems that they were receiving $15 for every citation they issued and were expected to write two tickets per hour.

Oliver, Georgia

This town had about 380 residents yet received more than half its budget from fines. Drivers from the area all know about the speed trap. The Georgia Department of Public and Safety discovered that in one year, the Oliver Police Department wrote 132 tickets for an area where they did not have jurisdiction. Over two years, those tickets brought in over $40,000 in fines.

Are There Other Ways Police Are Motivated to Write More Tickets?

Are There Other Ways Police Are Motivated to Write More Tickets?

Police may not be blatantly told to write a certain amount of tickets or else, but they often are aware of how things work. For instance, in some departments, if they want to get promoted, they know they need to meet a certain weekly or monthly quota, and if they don’t, they can be demoted.

This type of action was brought to light in the small town of Bratenahl, Ohio, where the town’s mayor’s court was raising revenue through traffic tickets. An anonymous source sent reporter Caitlin Johnson an email that was between Mayor John Licastro and Police Chief Richard Dolbow. In this email, the mayor told Chief Dolbow that revenue was down and that it would have an effect on the department’s raises. Chief Dolbow forwarded this email to his officers and made some very harsh statements. After criticizing some of the officers saying they were lazy and refused to work half as hard as their peers, he stated he would look at the officers’ stats and see what needs to be done to “motivate” those who fall short and are thus, threatening all officers from getting a raise.

Have Officers Ever Spoken Out About Being Forced to Make a Ticket Quota?

New York

Officer Sandy Gonzales had been with the New York Police Department for 12 years. He claimed the police department was retaliating against him because he was not making his quota. He said that he would have to massively write summonses and arrest people to come up with the numbers they were looking for. As a punishment, Gonzales was put on foot tour. He was yanked from his squad car and forced to stand on a street corner in the cold and fog.

Supposedly quotas in New York have been banned since 2010. But this wasn’t the case. Gonzales had joined with 11 other officers known as the NYPD 12. They were on a mission to expose quotas and do something about them.


In California, Los Angeles awarded a $6 million settlement to LAPD officers who blew the whistle on their superiors for imposing a severe traffic citation quota system. These officers said they were reprimanded, denied overtime assignments, were given undesirable assignments, and harassed for failing to meet quota minimums.


A former Auburn police officer, Justin Hanners, was fired for speaking out against quotas. He states that he and other officers were ordered to hassle, ticket, or arrest a certain number of citizens per shift. He said that the officers were told to make 100 contacts a month. This included tickets, arrests, field interviews, and warnings. In a town of only 50,000 people, that came to 72,000 contacts a year. Hanners explained further that because there just weren’t that many speeders and people running red lights, officers had to lower their standards and do things such as make arrests that weren’t really necessary in order to make the quota.

Will Ticket Quotas Ever End?

Will Ticket Quotas Ever End?

Unfortunately, it seems that even though there are states with laws against ticket quotas, police will continue to execute this practice. There has been discussion about pension penalties for departments that continue to enforce ticketing quotas. Economists have provisionally found that states that implemented stricter pension forfeiture laws experienced lower rates of police misconduct.

As of February 2022, eleven states are taking steps to end ticket quotas.

  • Virginia – the senate voted to advance a bill that would prohibit law enforcement from setting a specified number of tickets for officers to write.
  • Maryland – a House bill was introduced that prohibits using quotas for promotion, demotion, dismissal, and transfer of an officer.
  • Mississippi – a Mississippi lawmaker is trying to implement legislation prohibiting any law enforcement agency from establishing a policy that would force officers to meet a ticket quota.
  • Alabama – a House bill was introduced prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from instituting ticket quotas and preventing agencies from giving incentives or rewards for issuing traffic tickets.
  • Illinois – a House bill was introduced that forbids municipalities from using points systems, quotas, or any similar process to track or account for citations or warnings issued by law enforcement.
  • Michigan – though they already have a law in place against ticket quotas, a revision is being introduced that would prevent an officer from being given greater consideration than any other factor in evaluating the officer’s performance based on the number of tickets he writes.
  • Minnesota – though Minnesota law already forbids law enforcement agencies from ordering or suggesting an officer make a ticket quota, they are introducing a bill to extend the protection to include prohibiting any agency from using the number of citations an officer gave as criteria to evaluate their performance.
  • New York – an Assembly bill was introduced that forbids an employer from transferring or penalizing an officer for failing to meet a mandated ticket quota.
  • Ohio – a House bill was introduced that would forbid any law enforcement agency from implementing a ticketing quota. Also, the state’s attorney general will be required to initiate a form whereby police can anonymously report any quota mandate.
  • Oklahoma – a Senate bill was introduced that would outlaw local governments and police departments from requiring officers to meet a quota and prevent agencies from evaluating personnel based on the number of tickets they wrote.
  • Pennsylvania – a House bill was introduced that would ban ticket quota language from any regional police department or agency in the state. This law would cover any direct or indirect order of an officer to issue a certain number of citations over a specific period of time.

However the problem is handled, it is clear that something needs to be done. A good portion of the public finds the use of ticketing quotas unacceptable and believes that criminal sanctions should not be attached to police incentives.

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