A lawsuit filed on behalf of six Wittier, CA police officers alleges that the Wittier Police Department requires them to meet arrest and ticket quotas and that, when they refused to do so and spoke out about the illegal policy, they were punished by higher-ups.
Sections 41600-41603 of the California Vehicle Codes make it illegal for “any state or local agency employing peace officers” to require police to meet arrest or ticket quotas. However,according to The Los Angeles Times, the LA-area Whittier Police Department allegedly requires its officers to meet both ticket and arrest quotas, and a group of six police officers working for the department have spoken out about and refused to participate in the scheme. A lawsuit filed last Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of the six officers against the City of Wittier claims that, after they complained about the quotas to Internal Affairs and higher-ups at the department, they were subjected to a wide range of punishments in retaliation, including increased scrutiny by supervisors, transfers, suspensions, disparaging comments, and threats of termination.
The above-embedded video footage by KTLA-5 contains evidence of a 2012 memo that was sent by a Wittier Police Department captain to one of the whistle-blowing officers which accused the cop of “deficient productivity” for failing to meet the average arrest and ticket numbers achieved by other officers at the department. California Vehicle Codes section 41600 says, “For purposes of this chapter, ‘arrest quota’ means any requirement regarding the number of arrests made, or the number of citations issued, by a peace officer, or parking enforcement employee, or the proportion of those arrests made and citations issued by a peace officer or parking enforcement employee, relative to the arrests made and citations issued by another peace officer or parking enforcement employee, or group of officers or employees.”
The lawsuit lists Corporal Joseph Rivera and officers Mike Rosario, Nancy Ogle, Steve Johnson, Jim Azpilicueta, and Anthony Gonzalez as the six cops who spoke out about the quotas. The officers described their motivation for blowing the whistle by saying that they “spoke out not only for the rights of themselves and their fellow officers, but also for the rights of the public by speaking out against what they believed to be an unlawful citation and arrest quota.”
The Los Angeles Times notes that officers Johnson and Azpilicueta were placed under supervision after they came forward and that Johnson was subsequently investigated by Internal Affairs and suspended.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages as the affected officers say that the retaliation has harmed their careers, health, and well-being. City Manager Jim Collier said, “The lawsuit is unfortunate and the city will determine the best course of action once an analysis of the lawsuit is completed.”
The six whistle-blowing officers claim that the quota system is still being used by the Whittier Police Department.