Speeders and other traffic scofflaws are catching a break in Denver, where ticket-writing is taking a back seat to other police responsibilities, says the Rocky Mountain News. Mile High city officers issued 19,128 fewer tickets in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period in 2002, a drop of about 19 percent.
The decline means the city’s coffers are collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars less at a time when officials are struggling to save jobs. “We’ve certainly noticed it. It makes an appreciable difference,” said Denver Court Administrator Matt McConville.
Police Division Chief Mary Beth Klee says “the reduction is because we have fewer officers. If your call load is such that your officers are having to spend more time responding to calls (for service), you have less time for self-initiated actions.” Since the end of 2002, when Denver had 1,446 sworn officers, the department has lost about 60 positions, or a 4 percent decrease.
For most of July and August, the police department was being run on an interim basis by Police Chief Gerry Whitman, who was battling for the job amid fierce political pressure from union leaders. The pressure included a memo sent by the Denver Police Protective Association executive board to the committee responsible for appointing new city leaders after John Hickenlooper was elected mayor in June. “It has been suggested by the police administration that street officers produce at least one ticket a day to help the city’s finances,” the board wrote. “This is not a difficult feat for the officers to accomplish. The problem is that officers have no loyalty to this administration, thus they have no desire to participate in this venture.”
When the memo hit the news, more than two dozen officers publicly blasted the board. Police Protective Association leaders said the comment had been misunderstood and was never intended as a threat. Four days later, the mayor reappointed Whitman.
Klee is confident there is no organized ticket-writing slowdown, but she acknowledged that individual officers respond differently to uncertainty.