New York City police officer Adhyl Polanco says, “The culture is, you’re not working unless you are writing summonses or arresting people,” NPR reports. One of the dirty secrets in law enforcement that no one likes to talk about is quotas. Police departments deny requiring officers to deliver a set number of tickets or arrests. Critics say that kind of numbers-based policing is real, and corrodes the community’s relationship with the police. Polanco joined the force in 2005, and, he says, it became clear that his supervisors only cared about two things: tickets and arrests. Polanco encountered an unwritten rule that officers are expected to bring in “20 and one.” That’s 20 tickets and one arrest per month. Officials deny there were any quotas. “There is no specific target number that we go for,” said Commissioner William Bratton. “There are no quotas, if you will.”
Polanco was determined to expose the NYPD’s alleged quota system. So he secretly recorded conversations inside his precinct house in the Bronx. Polanco is suing the NYPD, one of several whistle-blower lawsuits over alleged quotas. Arrest and ticket quotas are illegal in several states, including New York, Illinois, California, and Florida. Law enforcement officials will tell you they still exist. “Does it happen in some places? Yeah, I’m sure it does,” says Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. Wexler says some of the 18,000 police departments probably do have quotas. “On the one hand, there is an understandable desire to have productivity from your officers,” he says. “But telling them that you want to arrest x number of people, you have to cite x number of people, it just encourages bad performance on the part of officers.” Wexler says the problem is especially bad if officers start to view the community they’re policing as a source of revenue. The Justice Department says that is what happened in Ferguson, Mo.