Does the Los Angeles Parking Enforcement office have ticket quotas?
The answer is “yes”, according to a recently retired, 20+ year veteran, L.A. parking enforcement officer who contacted the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative to tell us his story. This officer, who retired this past February, shared some not-too-surprising information during an extensive telephone interview. Here's what he had to say about quotas:
Towards the end of the fiscal year (May and June) and also around the December holiday season, the Parking Violations Bureau assesses how much money is left in their budget to see if they are on track to use all the money allotted to them. Like most city departments, if they don't use the money, they lose it and may get less in their budget for next year. This “use it or lose it” budgetary policy provides an incentive for departments to find ways to spend any surplus funds. In the case of the Parking Enforcement office, their strategy is to offer enforcement officers overtime shifts to write tickets. But worse is that the officers who are given overtime are told that they must write about 8 tickets per 4 hour overtime shift. That's 32 tickets in 4 hours. According to this retired officer, if they don't write about that many tickets, they don't get assigned additional overtime. And since these shifts pay time-and-a-half, officers have a huge incentive to make their quota.
Also according to this retired officer, depending on what beat they're assigned to, it's not necessarily easy for enforcement officers to find 32 parking violations in a 4 hour shift. So officers start looking for borderline or marginal violations. These are the “gotcha” violations that we hear so much about such as ticketing someone who has pulled over next to a red curb for a moment, or where the car is just outside the painted lines of the parking spot, or where the car's bumper is just slightly over into the red zone, or where the signs are known to be confusing or defaced. You get the idea. Sometime, officers who are having a hard time meeting their quota will “poach” violators in other enforcement officers' territory.
So now you know why that enforcement officer wrote you a ticket rather than asking you to move your vehicle, or issued a ticket where the violation was a bit ambiguous, or is staking out the neighborhood waiting for meters to expire, or claimed you were over the two hour limit when you really weren't. There's no penalty for them writing marginal or even sometimes clearly bogus tickets. In fact, the department's policy encourages them to do it, regardless of any written policy to the contrary. As long as they come back with the required number of tickets, that's really all that matters. And if you have to spend endless hours fighting the ticket, or pay a day's wages as your penalty, well that's not their problem. They made their quota, got more overtime, and the city collects more revenue from you, the citizen, the worker, the visitor, the business patron.
So are elected officials aware this is what's been going on? They are now. The question is, what will they do about it?
And just in case you think this is from some anonymous person who's hiding in the shadows, this retired officer is more than willing to go on record with all this and other truths about parking enforcement in the City of Los Angeles.