Sun, Nov 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Community engagement, not quotas

New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) on Tuesday voiced his support for a proposal that would abolish a police activity quota system that opponents have said results in unfair performance evaluations, inflated crime reports and overworked officers.

“Some officers had to catch 24 drunk drivers on their beat per month. If they failed, they had to continue patrol and traffic checks to meet their quota,” said officer Max Shih (石明謹), who works in the traffic division at Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華) precinct.

Several problems have emerged from the use of quotas in police crime reporting. They have no meaningful effect on curbing crime, but conversely result in some criminal activity going unreported.

“In one case, an officer had already met his quota when he caught three more drunk drivers one night. He kept it under wraps and reported them the following month,” Shih said.

Meanwhile, others have alleged that officers illegitimately report crimes to inflate numbers.

In some cases, officers arresting suspects for crimes such as firearm possession would tag on other offenses to boost their evaluations, Taiwan Police Union executive Kuo Li-hsuan (郭歷軒) said.

This is a problem that emerges throughout the world whenever police quotas are used.

Sandy Gonzalez, an officer in the Bronx and the lead plaintiff in a 2015 case against the New York Police Department, described the situation by imagining what he would say to a hypothetical offender: “When it comes to the end of the month and I need that number ... dude, it’s your neck or mine,” as reported by Saki Knafo in a July 2015 article for the Atlantic.

Despite there being a ban on quotas in the US, Gonzalez said that commanding officers would skirt the ban by “pressuring cops to generate more ‘activity.’” Those who failed to comply would be at risk of punishment or humiliation from higher-ups, he said.

Similarly, officers in Taiwan face punishment if they fail to meet quotas, Kuo said.

“It is like an arms race — each police station is competing — so you see things like a station achieving 700 percent or 800 percent of different objectives. However, commanding officers end up benefiting, not the public, who might have their cases ‘eaten’ or rejected if they do not correspond with a commanding officer’s focus,” Second Special Police Corps officer Yeh Chi-yuan (葉繼元) said.

Yeh was previously at the center of a lawsuit involving the National Police Agency after he received demerits and a demotion for having long hair.

Columbia Law School graduate Nathaniel Bronstein in a paper published on the university’s Web site in March 2015 wrote: “Police department activity quotas reduce police officer discretion and promote the use of enforcement activity for reasons outside of law enforcement’s legitimate goals.”

Despite legislation in the US banning quotas, “police departments still employ management devices that similarly reduce police officer discretion and reward police officers for enforcement activity that does not further a legitimate law enforcement goal, with the same negative effects on the criminal justice system and community-police relations,” Bronstein wrote.

The problem is that police agencies have a culture of inflating statistics to justify budget increases.

Hsu Jui-chu (許瑞助), the judge who presided over Yeh’s case, said that only commanding officers were suitable to evaluate police performance, but commanding officers are also accountable for their departments’ performance levels.

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