The majority of the small police department in Slaughter, Louisiana - including the police chief - resigned this week after accusing the mayor of the city of attempting to impose ticket quotas on citizens to increase revenue and turn a profit.
The officers’ resignations followed accusations their assistant chief made against Mayor Robert Jackson in April after residents began complaining of the high volume of tickets they were receiving — tickets that would have increased in number had the police adhered to Jackson’s quotas.
At the time, local outlet WBRZ 2 reported, Assistant Police Chief Bobby Hopson recorded a conversation with Jackson in which the mayor appeared to admit he would pay officers to execute 40 “warrants” each per month.
“You told me 40 tickets a month would be perfect for each officer because it would keep the budget going good,” Hopson said on the recording with Mayor Robert Jackson, WBRZ reported.
“I agree with that. I agree with that,” Jackson responded. “We sat down and looked at the numbers with the Chief, and that’s what we come [sic] up with and thought it would be a workable number.”
Police Chief Walter Smith denied agreeing to a quota, and Hopson stood behind him. Rather, Smith says he informed the mayor that imposing quotas is illegal.
“You can’t set a quota, [officers] have the right to do their job,” Chief Smith said. “We’ve told him before that it’s illegal to give ticket quotas,” Hopson added.
Pursuant to RS: 40:2401.1, “municipalities and their police departments are prohibited from establishing or maintaining on a formal or informal basis policies which require or suggest predetermined or specified number of any type or combination of arrests or traffic citations.“
When WBRZ confronted Jackson with Hopson’s recording, he admitted it was his voice on the tape but denied giving the police a quota, claiming he suggested “40 interactions” rather than “40 tickets.”
“I told Bobby, and Bobby and I, but you ended it before I said 40 interactions,” Jackson told the outlet. “Let it keep going.”
“So we continued playing the recording. Never did Jackson say he told the Police Chief, Assistant chief or other Officers in the Department about interacting 40 times with the public. The Chief and Assistant Chief are also not mincing their words. They said the Mayor’s orders were clear. He wanted 40 tickets per month.“
A week after the initial April report, WBRZ reported again on the interactions between Hopson and Jackson.
“Everyone makes $25 bucks a piece…each warrant. I thought it would be a good thing for officers to make extra money,” Jackson reportedly said.
“The law precludes him from doing that,” Chief Smith said more recently. “But, he was not up enough on that law to know that.”
When WBRZ contacted Jackson again the following week in April, they reported that he hung up on them after saying “I have no interest in speaking with you.”
Smith says he decided to resign after nearly everyone in the department quit over the alleged quota system. “Everyone I had working here when you talked to me last (two months ago) no longer is,” he said. They refused to enforce the quotas.
As police around the country continue to face scrutiny for illegal and immoral behavior, it is refreshing to see the majority of a police force stand up against injustice and an apparently corrupt official to side with the public.
As Hopson said back in April, “As a law enforcement officer, anytime someone is breaking the law, it’s my job to expose it. That’s what I took an oath to do as a law enforcement officer.”
An interim chief will be appointed until the town can elect a new one, and the local sheriff’s department will likely provide back up until new officers are hired.