New TPD policy means more traffic tickets for Tucson

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - How many times have you been pulled over and thanked your lucky stars when you got away with a warning, or cursed your luck when the officer comes back with a ticket?

Changes to Tucson Police Department policy may also change your chances of getting that ticket.

You are now four times more likely to get a traffic ticket in the city of Tucson, thanks to a newly instituted mandatory minimum requirement, or quota, for traffic tickets from Tucson Police.

An exclusive Tucson News Now investigation has discovered that each officer must now write at least one traffic ticket every day.

"I see them pulling people over all the time," driver Mike Nemerouf said.

Police Chief Robert Villasenor says he instituted the rule after the ticket average for individual officers fell to one a week.

"And the reason why is not because they are lazy or they are not wanting or willing to do that. It's that there are so many calls for service that they are just constantly going call to call."

So now, on top of that work load, officers will also have to hit the minimum ticket requirements.

According to TPD, if every officer hits his expectation, more tickets will be written.

This also means you are more likely to be pulled over.

Nemerouf doesn't like seeing so many police cars on the street.

"[It's] like they are out to get you," he said.

But Villasenor argues the flow of traffic is also part of good policing.

Some drivers agree with him.

"You're safer if people don't speed and … go in and out of the traffic, which is common," one driver said. 

But here's the catch: Tucson police don't have any plans to hire any more officers and the work load isn't magically going down to make time for traffic ticket writing, so to hit the minimum, some calls for service will take a back seat to traffic tickets.

"If they are en route to a high-priority call? Obviously not. But if they are en route to a low-priority call, there's a judgment thing: The severity of the offense compared to the severity of the call. Make a judgment on it," Villasenor said.

And that judgment call is completely up to the officer.

There is no standard operating procedure for which offense is more important.

"Ooh, that's crazy. That's completely contrary to what the police are here for," Nemerouf said. "They are supposed to enforce safety – on the roads or whatever. But if they are worried about hitting that quota, they can't do the job that they are paid to do."

It's too early to tell how effective the new policy is, but Villasenor says safe streets are a critical part of a safe community.

In the meantime, it may mean more money out of your pocket.

Field interviews are also a part of this quota.

Officers are also supposed to do one of those each day.

Villasenor says it's the kind of community policing that stops crimes before they happen.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now All rights reserved.