JEFFERSON CITY, Mo- Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Monday that he is suing Marshfield for allegedly enforcing a traffic ticket quota.
According to a press release from Schmitt’s office, the laws against a traffic ticket quota stem from Senate Bill 5 – specifically Senate Bill 765.
You can read the full lawsuit here.
The lawsuit alleges that efforts were made by the police chief to intimidate whistleblowers.
According to the lawsuit, Chief of Police Doug Fannen, on behalf of Marshfield, gave department employees instruction to write sixteen citations per month and informed those officers that their performance evaluations would reflect whether the officer has issued those sixteen citations.
The lawsuit alleges that Fannen began posting officers’ monthly traffic citation statistics to the department bulletin board, but briefly stopped after the Attorney General’s Office sued Diamond in April of 2019 for enforcing a traffic ticket quota. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the Marshfield Chief of Police stated that the Diamond chief “messed up” by documenting a quota policy and that he had never written down his quota policy.
The press release states:
“To back up allegations of a traffic ticket quota scheme, the lawsuit Office notes the City of Marshfield’s traffic stop statistics submitted to the Attorney General’s Office. The number of citations issued by Marshfield police officers in the past years: in 2016, the total number of citations was 383. In 2017 that number increased to 646, and in 2018 that number jumped to 1,386. The number of warnings issued by Marshfield police decreased from 982 in 2016 to 787 in 2018. Additionally, the number of citations issued by Marshfield officers on the Interstate highway increased from zero in 2016 to eight in 2017 and then jumped to 241 in 2018.
Additionally, the lawsuit also includes minutes from the Board of Aldermen meetings showing the City of Marshfield’s decision to hire a “traffic enforcement officer” within the Marshfield police department. This position would be paid by revenue generated from traffic tickets, and the traffic enforcement officer would be required to write at least nine citations per shift, or 144 citations per month.
Lastly, the lawsuit alleges, on information and belief, that an officer employed by the Marshfield Police Department confronted the Chief of Police in early 2019 and stated that traffic ticket quotas are illegal under Missouri law. On information and belief, this officer resigned after reportedly receiving disparate treatment from the Chief after raising concerns about the traffic ticket quota. The lawsuit also alleges that the Chief of Police and/or a direct report to the Chief of Police approached the Webster County Prosecuting Attorney to discuss pursuing a felony charge against the resigned officer for an unrelated issue. The Chief of Police then allegedly asked an officer to relay a message to the resigned officer that if he talked to the Attorney General’s Office about the traffic ticket quota scheme, that the Chief of Police would pursue a felony charge against that officer for that unrelated charge.”
The City of Marshfield has posted a press release in response to Schmitt’s lawsuit.
In the Marshfield press release, they say they have not been served with the lawsuit.
The city also says they feel the allegations are meritless.
” The City’s increase in traffic ticket revenues are easily attributable to the City hiring additional officers in each of the past two year to keep pace with the community’s growth. Additionally, in March 2018 the City provided all our police vehicles with radar guns. Prior to that time only one police vehicle had a radar gun. Additionally, earlier this year the City hired a dedicated traffic officer so that other police officers could focus their efforts in other areas of need and not solely on traffic enforcement,” the City of Marshfield states.
“As a state senator, I fought hard to pass Senate Bill 5 to ensure that our citizens wouldn’t simply be used as ATMs to fill municipal government coffers. Now, as Attorney General, it’s my duty to enforce those laws. Since taking office, my office has taken swift action to ensure that Senate Bill 5 is being properly followed, including our April lawsuit against the City of Diamond,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “With this lawsuit against the City of Marshfield, we’re sending a clear message to municipalities across the state: even if you don’t write your traffic ticket quota policy down, we will take action to hold you accountable.”