Missouri attorney general sues city over traffic tickets
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued a southwestern Missouri city on Thursday for allegedly using traffic ticket quotas to generate revenue for the municipal government.
The City of Diamond’s police chief, Michael Jones, wrote on a white board that the city was $5,000 behind and instructed officers to issue tickets “RFN,” an acronym that a whistleblower believed to include profanity and to mean immediately, Schmitt’s office alleges in its lawsuit.
“On information and belief, the City of Diamond and its Chief of Police are directing their police officers to write additional traffic tickets for the explicit purpose of generating additional municipal revenue,” the lawsuit states. It also contends that Jones sent Mayor Brenda Schmitt and Board of Aldermen regular updates of how many tickets individual officers were issuing.
Neither Jones nor the Brenda Schmitt, who is not related to Eric Schmitt, immediately replied to requests for comment made Thursday.
Missouri banned the use of ticket quotas following protests in Ferguson over the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18 year old.
Brown’s shooting didn’t involve a traffic stop, but his death and the sometimes violent protests that followed drew attention to concerns about the mostly white police force’s treatment of the predominantly black residents of the St. Louis suburb, including the use of police to collect revenue through traffic fines and court fees.
Schmitt, who sponsored the legislation during his time as a state senator, said in a statement that people “should not be used as ATMs.”
“Taxation by citation is an outdated, unsustainable, and unacceptable system,” he said. “Enforcing ticket quotas and writing tickets purely to generate revenue breaks down trust between municipalities and the citizens they serve.”
The lawsuit alleges that Jones told employees that they were “behind on our ticket count” and needed to issue about 50 tickets a month. The attorney general’s office also contends that Jones has told officers that money was needed to “keep the lights on.”
The attorney general’s office requested that the judge order the city to stop the practice.