COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) You've always heard the rumors about state troopers and ticket quotas, but a Highway Patrol memo obtained exclusively by WIS News 10 shows quotas do exist in the Palmetto State.
"It always seems like around the end of the month there's plenty of people, and here with the goals it shows that they're trying to reach so many people per month, even," said driver Brett Roberts.
"From what I see right now, I believe parts of it are true," said driver Jamal Adams.
Some say a March 2010 memo from Trooper Gilmore Owens to 10 other troopers shows the strongest evidence yet that the patrol is holding its staff to a quota system. In the memo, Trooper Owens writes, "overall I was very pleased, however we have a few that need to pull there [sic] load."
The memo also contained a list of what the patrol calls "goals." Owens broke the list into warnings, seatbelts, speeding cases and DUI. The list breaks down how many of each case each trooper should make, like 40 speeding tickets a month and 42 DUIs a year.
"That word 'goals' says that they have an objective of how much they have to get done," said Roberts. "That sounds exactly like a quota to me."
Roberts and Adams were in a Columbia traffic courtroom Tuesday, both charged with violations by a trooper. After seeing the 2010 memo, both believe the quota myth just might be reality.
SC Troopers Association director David Latimer says he has no doubt the patrol is held to monthly quotas. "It's very easy for troopers to become distracted if they're always concentrating on writing a certain number of violations," said Latimer.
Latimer says quotas give the public the idea that the patrol's mission is a numbers game. "I don't think that's the message the Highway Patrol wants to send," commented Latimer. "Their message should be that they're going to enforce the traffic laws fairly, impartially and that public safety is going to be their primary goal, not just meeting a particular number."
"There's two sides to every story, but from what I see right now, I believe parts of it is true," said Adams.
We also reached out to SLED Chief Mark Keel, who was the patrol's director when the memo was issued, but Keel has not responded to our request.
Still, those who support quota systems say quota or not, troopers aren't making the cases up -- they still have to catch you breaking the law before they write you a ticket.