No Tickee, No Jobee

Miami-Dade cop William Oertwig has paid for refusing to issue traffic tickets

By the time Oertwig returned to the road in 1998, his views on traffic fines had changed drastically. He called ticketing a revenue-producing scheme. “I'm not a meter maid,” Oertwig scoffs. “When I took this job 25 years ago, I took it as a deputy sheriff to protect and defend not just the Constitution of the United States but the rights of the people. I did not take the job of a revenue-producing agent.”

His refusal to write tickets simmered for nearly two years before his bosses confronted him on February 21, he says. One of his supervisors, Sgt. John Eckels, demanded Oertwig start issuing citations. If he failed to do so, he would be stripped of his acting sergeant status and assigned to desk duty. On March 2 Oertwig sent a letter to Eckels stating: “My understanding of that [conversation] is that you informed me that per Lieutenant Brown I would be transferred from my present assignment in uniform patrol on grounds that I am not writing Uniform Traffic Citations.”

Following his letter to Eckels, Oertwig says Brown called him into his office and told him it was a patrolman's job to write tickets. Eckels then rode with Oertwig. On the officer's annual evaluation on May 20, Sergeant Eckels gave him a less than satisfactory mark, the first such rating in the officer's career. “His productivity in all areas is either poor or nonexistent. Officer Oertwig did not issue a single traffic citation.” He had given 37 warnings to drivers during the year. Even that, according to the department, is an exceptionally low number. Oertwig says he had received mostly satisfactory ratings throughout the year and Eckels's poor review resulted from vindictiveness. On June 2 the department revoked Oertwig's right to take home a patrol vehicle owing to his poor performance. Then, Oertwig says, Eckels began following him to monitor his behavior. “They treated me like a rookie,” he comments.

Beyond his political views, Oertwig says he is motivated by other, loftier, goals. He says he longs for the days when police officers were as widely loved and respected by citizens as firemen. “It is my goal to change the image of police to the public,” he notes. “The public likes firemen because they are there to help. And it dislikes police officers, because generally citizens' only contact with us is when we give them traffic tickets.”

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