A widening controversy over illegal ticket quotas at the Florida Highway Patrol has cost another high-ranking patrol official his job — this time the second-ranking official in the agency, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Lt. Col. Mike Thomas, a 30-year veteran of the patrol, announced that he would take early retirement Sept. 1 after acknowledging that he wrote an e-mail in May that directed troopers to write at least two citations an hour. Thomas called it a “grave error.”
Major Mark Welch’s 35-year career came to an end two weeks ago after the newspaper reported that he sent a July 28 email to dozens of troopers in an eight-county region that officers said was a mandate for quotas, which are illegal under state law. “The patrol wants to see two citations each hour,” Welch wrote to troopers who work on an overtime detail known as SOAR, or Statewide Overtime Action Response, a taxpayer-funded initiative to improve highway safety. “This is not a quota; it is what we are asking you to do to support this important initiative.” The newspaper obtained internal patrol emails in which Miami-Dade troopers were congratulated for meeting or exceeding goals for traffic stops and as a result were allowed to switch their days off from weekdays to weekends.