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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Florida Highway Patrol official suspended after ticket quota probe

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 4:03 PM

  • Photo by Tim Corradino/Flickr
A Florida Highway Patrol regional commander got a three-day suspension as the agency completed an internal review about whether troopers received quotas for writing traffic tickets.

The agency has maintained there are no quotas, but the controversy resulted in the exit of two other high-ranking agency officials.

The three-day suspension without pay of Chief Mark Brown from his $118,000-a-year position as the North Florida operations regional commander was announced as the state agency said it has completed its review and is enacting new guidelines.

Among the changes, new training will be required for all members of the FHP, and clarifications about a ban on quotas will be included in job descriptions and performance expectations for supervisors.

In a letter Wednesday to Brown outlining the suspension, FHP Director Gene Spaulding noted Brown sent an email to subordinate commanders on July 28 “encouraging 2 citations per hour” from troopers working the Statewide Overtime Action Response program aimed at curbing speeders.

“Following a review, it was discovered that other supervisors under your command forwarded similar directives and, as we had previously discussed, it is not appropriate to request that a trooper write a specific number of citations,” Spaulding wrote.

In addition to Brown's suspension, an FHP release noted that an early retirement request from Lt. Col. Michael Thomas —- submitted Monday —- was accepted and that Spaulding and Terry Rhodes, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, have discussed the prohibition on quotas with all command staff.

“In accordance with the August 10 memo to FHP command staff from Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes, FHP command staff were directed to ensure no quotas were or are imposed within the agency,” the release from the FHP said. “FHP has completed its review of command staff correspondence that stemmed from emails sent by the former lieutenant colonel of the Florida Highway Patrol.”

Thomas, the second-highest ranking officer in the FHP and a 30-year veteran, had acknowledged he wrote an email in May encouraging troopers to write at least two tickets per hour as part of the statewide program to curb speeding. The email said, in part, “so we can encourage our members to maintain our 2.0 citations per hour ratio, as we attempt to provide a safer driving environment for Floridians.”

Thomas' resignation followed the resignation of Maj. Mark Welch, a troop commander who oversaw eight counties near Tallahassee and had served the state for more than 35 years. Welch announced his retirement after acknowledging he also sent a July 28 memo to troopers that they interpreted as a mandate for a ticket quota.

“The patrol wants to see two citations each hour,” Welch wrote in the memo. “This is not a quota; it is what we are asking you to do to support this important initiative.”

Welch, whose memo was the first to be reported by the news media, submitted his resignation on Aug. 16, the day Attorney General Pam Bondi said during a state Cabinet meeting she was “troubled” by Welch's directive, which she called “a stupid statement.”

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