Quota? North Florida state troopers told to write 2 tickets per hour

A Florida Highway Patrol official wants troopers under his command to write at least two tickets an hour, an order that a Florida state senator says is illegal, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

In an email to troopers in an eight-county area in Florida’s Panhandle, Maj. Mark Welch wrote that “the patrol wants to see two citations each hour.”

"This is not a quota; it is what we are asking you to do to support this important initiative."

Currently, North Florida troopers are writing 1.3 tickets per hour under the initiative, called the Statewide Overtime Action Response program, the Times reported. In an email obtained by the Times, Welch wrote that figure "is not good enough."

Florida law prohibits the setting of ticket quotas.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who oversees the FHP budget as chairman of the Senate’s transportation budget committee, said Welch has no authority to tell troopers to write more tickets.

“That goes against everything the Florida Highway Patrol should be doing,” Brandes said. “FHP is about safety. It's not about meeting quotas."

Lt. Col. Mike Thomas told the Times that Welch could have chosen his words more carefully, but that he was not imposing a ticket quota.

"It's like a want," Thomas said. "We're just trying to promote our guys getting out, making the stops, having contact with the public, educating them, and we do have discretion. No one has ever taken discretion away from a patrol officer."

FHP figures show that troopers wrote 934,965 citations in 2014, 869,352 in 2015 and 749,241 last year, the Times reported.