Camden, New Jersey is one of the most dangerous, crime-filled cities in the United States. It's been named one of the country's top ten most dangerous cities year after year.
The Camden police force has recently made the news. Not because of new arrests or crimes but because of a lawsuit over an alleged quota system that Camden policemen have been using.
The Quota Practice
Supposedly, under a new quota practice, officers are supposed to make a certain amount of stops each hour. They are also to obtain information such as names, addresses and even pictures of those arrested for police files.
However, officers who don't make enough arrests and stops and those who've spoken against this practice have been subject to scoldings. These officers have sued the city and the police department.
Attorney Gregg Zeff, representing the police union, along with two officers and a former officer brought the lawsuit after use of the quota system began in 2008. These officers had no disciplinary problems before the system.
The lawsuit explains that the police officers with the lowest number of stops in a month were put on a list of low performers. This list didn't take into account vacation or sick time.
What's Wrong with this System?
It's no secret that some police precincts use quotas. You may be aware of this when you see more speed traps and stops during the first or last week of the month.
Such quota systems are bad because policemen are pressured to meet certain goals and end up stopping people unnecessarily. These quota systems are sometimes motivated by race and end up negatively affecting the work of police officers as well as their relationships and reputation in the community. These types of practices and behavior cause distrust and anger. Furthermore, they're illegal.
In New Jersey, quotas were outlawed in 2000 because of their arbitrary nature. They're recognized as unfair not just to the people arrested, but created unfair working conditions for police officers as well. While police departments can use information and statistics to measure productivity, they can't use those numbers as the only reason to demote or promote someone.
However, while such quota practices are illegal in New Jersey and in most states, the Camden police force is not the first, and not the last, to be accused of using a quota system.
Even worse, not only do the quotas result in police officers stopping people for no apparent reason, but Camden officers have been warned about speaking out against this practice. The officers speaking out against the policy and brought the lawsuit were put on a list of low performers. They were subject to further retaliation including a transfer and salary reduction.
Meanwhile, the Camden Police Chief, Scott Thompson, denied that there was a quota system in place. He explained that he simply instructed officers to patrol "known" crime-filled areas and take a more proactive approach. He denies requiring officers to make arrests.
However, he also explained that due to the high level of crime, it's unreasonable that officers patrolling these areas won't see something that would require their attention. Thompson justifies his department as simply wanting their officers to take a less passive approach to crime.
Nonetheless, with this lawsuit, the department will be examined for their actions and a federal court will be able to determine if in fact there is a quota system to be dismantled.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can this quota be expanded to other types of crimes?
- Do I have any recourse if I think I've been stopped or arrested because of the quota system?
- Can prisoners appeal the decision of the Court if it upholds the quota?