This blog is officially "retired," but my other blog,
"The Lair of the Silver Fox," is still open for business!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"No Mercy, No Quota"

(Anybody who can tell me exactly what the title of today's post is referencing will win... Well, actually, you won't win anything. But I'll sure be impressed!)

By and large, I have a great deal of respect for policemen, state troopers, and others in the law enforcement field. It's pretty much a thankless job. And before you start sputtering "But... But... !" let me point out that I am fully aware that the profession has its share of outright jerks, as well as those who abuse the power granted to them by their occupation. But so does any job, if you think about it... or has every boss, manager, or supervisor for whom you've ever worked been a peachy-keen, dandy, upright individual?

I also do realize that someone with as much power as the police have over the regular citizenry becomes so much worse than the above-mentioned managers and supervisors when the power granted to him or her is abused.

I must also point out that most (accent on "most") of the people who mistrust or even hate policemen in toto aren't those who've been wronged by said abuses; most of them seem to be people with rightfully-guilty consciences, or outright criminals.

I don't envy anyone in their field. It must really suck to be a member of a profession which (for the most part) attempts "to serve and protect," as the saying goes, knowing that so many people inherently dislike you, distrust you, disparage you, and/or -- oh, just add any other "dis" word which you can think of, including the word "dis" itself -- simply because of what you do for a living.

It's kind of like being a child pornographer. Or a drug dealer. 

Or a person who works for the local cable company.

However, having said all of that...

For almost as long as I've been aware of what a policeman's role is in society, I have heard rumors of the dreaded "quota system." For the uninitiated among you, what this means is that each month, those employed by both the local and the state police are expected -- if not required -- to make a certain number of arrests, or give out a certain number of citations, etc., in order to "prove" that he or she is doing his or her job. I've known several people over the years who actually feel more comfortable committing the most minor of legal infractions (such as "sliding" through a red light, or jaywalking, or being slightly drunk and somewhat obnoxious as opposed to being all-out drunk and disorderly, etc.) toward the beginning of the month, rather than toward the end of the month, when the pressure to "perform" is on any officer who hasn't yet met this fabled "quota." (Talk about performance anxiety!)

And every policeman whom I've ever heard about or read about being (pardon the expression) quoted on the subject of quotas has vehemently denied the existence of this "quota system."




Shortly after I'd left work today, I turned my car from a side street onto Main Street, and within seconds, a police cruiser was behind me, his lights flashing, pulling me over. I wondered what I'd done. My registration and inspection sticker were both valid. I was wearing my seat belt, mandatory in Massachusetts. I'd used my directional (that's "blinker" to you colloquialists) when making the turn. I didn't even have time to increase my speed to one above the posted limit. Did I have a tail-light out, or had my rear license plate been stolen, or... ? Damnit, why'd he stop me?!?

He asked for my license and registration, of course. The usual procedure after receiving both items is for the officer or trooper to take them back to his cruiser and run a "check" on them, to see if I had any outstanding arrest warrants, etc. However, he didn't move more than a foot or two from my driver's side window. He leaned over my windshield slightly, checking to see if my inspection sticker was up-to-date. He asked why I was in that particular town (which is, as is apparent from the address listed on my license, not the town in which I reside), and I truthfully replied that I had just left work. He asked where I worked; I told him.

When he handed my license and registration back, he said that I had to take down the air freshener which was hanging from my rear-view mirror. Although I fully realized that technically, that's a law, I resisted the urge to say, "You stopped me for that? Are you stopping everyone who's got a graduation tassel, or a CD (I've never understood the significance of hanging a freakin' CD from your rear-view mirror, by the way; anyone care to enlighten me?), or a dream-catcher hanging there?"

As I drove away, I smirked and thought, "Hmm. Almost the last day of the month. I wonder if he really has a quota to live up to?" But it was not merely the fact that I had been stopped for something that seemed (to me) to be so petty that sparked my curiosity... 

Nope. That came a bit later.

I didn't really take the whole thing seriously until later that night, as I ran several errands in the nearest "big city." In the course of three hours' worth of driving all over said city, I saw more flashing blue lights than one would see on any six Christmas trees in December. It made me wish I knew how many of those pulled-over cars had truly done anything deserving of a policemen's wrath.

Almost the last day of the month. Almost the last day of the month.

Total coincidence? I think not.

I wrote the bulk of this little RantZ entry but then decided to hold off on posting it in its entirety until I'd had a chance to question an ex-policeman whom I know about quotas. He said they definitely weren't an issue for patrolmen, detectives, etc., who deal with arrests and the like. He fell short of actually admitting that there was any kind of monthly quota for those officers and troopers who mostly drive around during their shifts; he did go so far as to say that any cop on traffic duty who returned to the station at shift's end with no citations to show for it would be asked "Then what the hell did you do all night?"

So. No end-of-the-month-type quotas, strictly speaking.

And I want to believe him. As the Cowardly Lion said in "The Wizard of Oz," "I do I do I do" want to believe him.

But... I just don't.

All I'm sure of at this point is that I'll feel a lot more relaxed as I drive my car during the first... ohhh... three weeks or so of next month?

Thanks for your time.

P.S. -- The preceding blog originally appeared at my old blog URL, on May 31, 2005. Gotcha!


  1. * Jayne splutters *

    But... but ... but....


    *Jayne bows*

  2. David M.
    I knew it was from the "archives" because I read it way back then...but I read it again anyway. I enjoy your writing enough to re-read it.

  3. I refuse to comment on a recycled blog entry.

    ::stomps off to sulk::

  4. p.s.
    Anyone pointing out that I have no actually commented TWICE will be summarily shot.

    Just with elastic bands but you get my point.

    ::stomps off again::

  5. I've done some research on seems that most policemen are addicted to the scent of pine air fresheners and have an overwhelming need to snort the hangin' dandies.

    Especially when the moon is full...

  6. Cousin Saul: Gee, thanks. You're one of the original... what, maybe two?... people that read it, but didja notice I changed it a bit? Like that "Almost the last day of the month" was originally "Last day of the month." Pretty fancy, huh? Only for my new Blogger readers do I offer such extensive re-writes! (And Cake's just being a major-league hissy-fit doo-doo-head, but don't tell her I said so.)

    Cake: "Any blog you haven't read before is a new blog," bublitchki. Oh, wait, I can't reply to your comment, because you didn't leave one (twice, in fact, and would you please stop stomping around like that? Scares my cat.). Never mind.

    (Oh, damn. I thought "bublitchki" was a mild, inoffensive term of endearment. But a Google search -- to check my spelling -- reveals it actually means "bagel." Not fair to confuse pastry types (cake vs. bagels)! That'd be worse than mixing metaphors. So I take it back.)

  7. IANO: Hm. The thought of any policeman wanting to "snort [my] hangin' dandies" is a vastly unsettling one. But thanks for sharing.

    And in the "oh, s**t" category, I meant that cakes and bagels were both baked goods. I know that a bagel isn't a pastry.

  8. ::stomps back in...takes the bagels, pets the cat...stomps back out::

  9. [looking around apartment] Where the hell are my bagels? [looking at purring cat wearing an "I've just been petted" kinda smile] Orson! Did you eat my bagels? You fuzz-faced little thief... !

  10. I absolutely believe cops have quotas when they are watching the roads. I don't mistrust all cops. However, I am not completely trusting of cops in smaller towns. I grew up in a smaller town (I say smaller because it isn't small compared with some but it sure isn't as big as the city I live in now) and many of the cops, judges, detectives, etc. were dirty. When I was a kid there was a house across the street from me that sold drugs. At the time, I was too young to know what the hell they were doing. What I did know was that every day cop cars would literally pull up in the ally beside of the house, get out, knock on the side window, do an exchange of sorts (Yep, like a fucking McDonald's drive redneck is that?), get back in the car, and drive away. This was not true of all cops of course. But a good chunk of the police force were drug addicts. Then I went to school with the daughter of the main judge in town and she told me, at the tender age of twelve, that her father was a coke head. For years this stuff was whispered about and hinted at all throughout the town until about four years ago when a new mayor was elected and he fired half of the police force and launched a huge investigation proving what most of us already knew. Here in Columbus, I am sure there may be some cops involved in stuff like that but for the most part the cops really don't bother anyone unless they are actually doing something. In my hometown, many will stop to ask you what you are doing just because they can. Maybe the difference in the two has less to do with quotas and more to do with shear boredom. In a big city there is plenty of real shit to keep the cops occupied. hahaha


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