9 Investigates: Citation contest discovered in Winter Springs Police Department

WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. — If a driver received a ticket last month in Winter Springs, the ticket might have been written during a contest among officers, Channel 9’s Karla Ray learned.

9 Investigates obtained an internal memorandum promising a “reward” to the Winter Springs officer who produced the most citations and arrests.

The Winter Springs Police Department told Eyewitness News that in a statement that the memo was meant to promote teamwork and camaraderie, and does not amount to a “quota.”

Jeff Lotter, a former Orange County deputy and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who now works as a traffic attorney, told Eyewitness News a citation contest can have an impact on officer discretion.

More than 100 citations, warnings and arrests were made during the weekend of Sept. 10. A handwritten memo titled “Delta Shift Weekend Competition” offered “points” for everything from a written warning to DUI arrests that weekend. The “winner” would get to float for a pay period and also a “surprise.”

“I think a quota has a negative connotation: Meet this standard or you're punished. This is the inverse of that. The winner gets a reward, but it has the same effect,” Lotter said.

Lotter said some of the citations might have been warnings, without the competition in play.

“There are multiple citations issued to one driver. Generally you think about a major violation being issued, and warnings after that, so it definitely raises some questions,” Lotter said.

For example, one driver was given a $206 ticket for speeding, a separate $116 fine for failing to change his address on his license and a third fine of $166 for open container.

Another driver who was caught going 59 in a 50 mph zone was issued a $131 ticket and another $116 ticket for not having proof of insurance.

Winter Springs police officials told Eyewitness News in a statement: “After receiving your inquiry, we discovered the document in question was drafted during the period of one weekend in September by a sergeant as a way to promote teamwork within her individual squad. The context of the document was meant as a way to encourage camaraderie among her officers. It does not amount to an enforcement quota.

Even despite statutory prohibitions, the Winter Springs Police Department has not and will not sanction enforcement quotas of any kind. In addition to crime prevention programs, proactive traffic enforcement is just one goal of reducing crime within any jurisdiction and we are continually committed to that cause. We will investigate this matter further and take remedial action as deemed necessary through that investigation.”

“I think they know they're in the gray area, and I would encourage them to dismiss these violations,” Lotter said.