Missouri city settles lawsuit over traffic ticket quotas
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A southwestern Missouri city accused of using traffic ticket quotas to generate revenue has agreed to immediately stop the practice in a settlement announced by the state’s attorney general Tuesday.
The City of Diamond also agreed to mandatory training for top city officials on compliance with Missouri laws against traffic quotas.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued Diamond in April, based on allegations that the city’s police chief, Michael Jones, wrote on a white board that the city was $5,000 behind and instructed officers to issue tickets “RFN.” A whistleblower said RFN is an acronym for a phrase including profanity that means immediately, Schmitt’s office alleged in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also contended that Jones sent Mayor Brenda Schmitt and the Board of Aldermen regular updates on how many tickets individual officers had issued.
Jones and the mayor did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Mayor Schmidt is not related to the attorney general.
Under the settlement, Diamond faces a $100 fine for every day of noncompliance.
“This lawsuit and resolution should send a clear message to cities and municipalities: My office will be vigilant in ending taxation by citation — we will not hesitate to take action,” Schmitt said in a statement.
Missouri banned the use of ticket quotas following protests in Ferguson over the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18 year old.
Brown’s shooting didn’t involve a traffic stop, but his death and the sometimes violent protests that followed drew attention to concerns about the mostly white police force’s treatment of the predominantly black residents of the St. Louis suburb, including the use of traffic fines and court fees to boost revenue.
Schmitt sponsored the legislation during his time as a state senator.