Quotas to police chiefs are like mistresses to politicians: Nobody wants to get caught with one. No cop brass wants to admit that they've boiled the delicate art of policing-- where discretion and fairness is key-- to a crude numbers chase.
The Sunrise Police chief recently denied a quota system even after an officer received a reprimand for not handing out enough tickets. And Miami-Dade brass are toeing the same line. Says Captain Jorge A. Guerra: "My policy, and as a rule, is that we do not use quotas."
If you've been reading our coverage of Miami-Dade Ofc. Frank Adams -- the renegade cop who claims to have witnessed a pattern of abuse, dishonesty, and cover-ups in Florida's largest department -- this won't shock you: He says his bosses are lying about quotas, and he has documentation to show it.
The unwritten quota, Adams says, is for officers to collect two of each stat category -- arrests, traffic stops, and "field interviews" (checking the identification of a suspect) -- each day that they're on the streets.
At the end of every month, the cops receive an evaluation that looks a lot like a school report card, with a heavy emphasis on accumulated stats. Then lieutenants and captains circle the sums and write their critiques: "Low!" reads a scrawl on a month when Adams only made 15 field interviews. "Good job," writes the lieutenant in a month when Adams made 88 of the interviews. "Can do better, room for improvement," reads another missive next to his arrests stats.
A 2008 district-wide memo from Guerra, his former captain, implies that stats are the end-all in the MDPD. In it, the captain excoriates lieutenants, and threatens to revoke overtime, for giving positive evaluations to officers who were "below the squad's average" in field interviews and arrests: "Just last month, I received several ratings showing employees that only wrote six reports and several only 12 reports, and no arrests for the entire month. This is unacceptable! If you choose to allow your personnel not to perform, you will endure the repercussions of your inactions."
It's not a quota, says Guerra, who is now Captain of the Communications Bureau. "The Northside is the busiest district in the county," he explains. "What you do is you look at the squad average, and if that officer is nowhere near what everybody else is doing, that's problematic. If certain officers that do less are being rewarded by their supervisors, that brings down the morale of all of the officers."
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Guerra denies Adams' two-of-each-stat quota claim and dismisses the whistle-blowing cop: "He was at a desk. I don't understand what his beef is... I don't know him personally, but I do know that a lot of officers had issues with him."
Adams' problem with a quota system is that it leads officers to bend the law and racially profile in order to make arrests, he says, which is bad news for dreadlocked black men in Miami-Dade County. "You have officers taking advantage of people in order to get a stat," he says. "That's not right, and it's not good police work."
Below, we've embedded an example of a police evaluation, and the terse memo from Guerra.