Miami Police Investigating Officer Over Alleged Arrest Quotas

Miami Police during the FTAA protests in 2003.
Miami Police during the FTAA protests in 2003.
Kaldari via Wikimedia Commons

Across the nation, confidence in law enforcement is at a nadir. Secret and intrusive NSA surveillance has eroded America's trust in its officials. Meanwhile, recent cop killings of unarmed civilians such as Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City have shaken popular support for the police.

The last thing Americans want to hear right now is they could be thrown in jail just so local cops could meet arbitrary arrest quotas.

Sadly, that's exactly the news out of the Miami Police Department, which is investigating an officer for apparently ordering arrest quotas in Little Haiti.

Local blogger Al Crespo revealed details about the arrest quotas earlier this month.

In an email posted on Crespo's blog, Miami Police Sgt. Jason Ferguson appears to instruct five of his subordinate officers to each conduct "a minimum" of five tickets, "1-2 arrests," and "5-10 Watch orders / Park and Walks / Directed Patrol."

That translates to at least 25 tickets and five to ten arrests for a small neighborhood over the span of just four days.

Miami Police Investigating Officer Over Alleged Arrest Quotas

Florida statutes prohibit police from establishing "traffic citation quota[s]," but it's unclear whether there is a penalty or if that prohibition also applies to arrest quotas.

Arrest quotas are arguably unconstitutional because they could encourage cops to make arrests based on numbers (or even worse, incentives) rather than probable cause.

On Tuesday, several weeks after New Times inquired about the quota email, Miami Police said it was conducting an investigation.

"The Miami Police Department is working to determine if this email did in fact come from Sgt. Ferguson," Maj. Delrish Moss said in an emailed statement. "That is a part of an internal investigation that is underway.

"The Miami Police Department does not encourage nor do we support the use of quotas," Moss said. "We do not instruct our employees to engage in quotas, and if we find that the email is in fact from Sgt. Ferguson, he will be reprimanded accordingly."

Moss said he wasn't worried that citizens of Little Haiti were unlawfully arrested because of the apparent quota order.

"At this point we have no fear that anyone's constitutional rights have been violated because we have no information to support that these directives, if they were in fact given, were ever acted upon," Moss said.

Although arguably illegal and damaging to public trust, arrest quotas are nothing new in Miami. As Crespo points out on his blog, allegations of Miami Police quotas date back to at least 1965.

More recent, Miami's other major police departments have also been accused of keeping quota systems.

In 2010, New Times revealed evidence of arrest quotas on the Miami-Dade Police force. And two years ago, a Miami Beach cop claimed his superiors set a 2,000-arrest minimum for Memorial Day weekend. (Both departments denied using quotas.)

Send your tips to the author, or follow him on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

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