Friday, August 11, 2000

Sheriff denies he sets quotas

Leis says they are standards

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis fired back at statewide police union leaders Thursday, insisting he doesn't require deputies to meet arrest and citation quotas.

        But Ohio and national police union officials who came to Cincinnati for a news conference Thursday said somebody has to stick up for the deputies who fear for their jobs.

        So far, they said, 25 deputies have been counseled or given written reprimands in recent months for failing to meet the sheriff's standards for such things as DUI arrests and warrants served.

        A group of about eight deputies asked the state Fraternal Order of Police to get involved, said Paul Cox, the state union's general counsel. The deputies are “scared stiff of Simon Leis,” he said.

        Quotas have been controversial nationally for years. Opponents say they remove officer discretion and leave citizens wondering if they got ticketed because officers needed to boost their numbers.

        Several states, including Minnesota and Connecticut, have outlawed quotas. Legislation pending in the Ohio General Assembly would stop them, too.

        But for now, some of the revenue generated by each moving-violation ticket still comes back to county coffers, though not to the sheriff's department.

        Other states also have stopped that. In Kentucky, for example, none of the money paid in ticket fines goes to local communities.

        Sheriff Leis says his plan is aimed only at monitoring and improving deputies' per formance and that his evaluation system is an objective way to do that. He called the police union's public attack on the system irresponsible and inflammatory.

        Sheriff Leis tracks deputies' activities quarterly on a variety of duties, including arrests, traffic citations, miles driven, buildings checked and days worked. Deputies are compared with colleagues who do similar work at similar times, and they are required to fall within a 20-percent range of the numbers averaged for all the deputies in the group.

        Deputies whose work level falls more than 20 percent below the group average are subjected to progressive discipline. After low levels for almost two years, deputies can be fired.

        Sheriff Leis doesn't deny any of that. He just insists it isn't a quota system.

        Police union leaders say otherwise.

        “There is nothing positive about this,” said Ray Franklin, national FOP sergeant-at-arms.

        Records of all 25 disciplinary actions were not available Thursday. But Sheriff Leis' office released four examples.

        One, issued in May, said the unidentified officer had some personal problems that affected his performance. He got a letter of counseling and a list of how many categories he needed to bring up.

        Among them: his seven misdemeanor arrests during the first quarter of 2000 missed the minimum standard of 8.57; his seven warrants served missed the mark of 12.69; moving citations — he had 32, compared with 34.97; DUI arrests — two, compared with the average of 2.4; and he made 20 crime-prevention contacts, compared with 27.43.

        In the other three examples, deputies were given a list of the categories in which their numbers were deficient. All of them were low in arrests.

        The breakdown, said spokesman Steve Barnett, shows that deputies are thoroughly informed because the sheriff's goal is to help them improve.

        Nick DiMarco, president of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio and an officer in suburban Cleveland, disagreed: “Any time discipline is exchanged for the lack of producing arrests — that's a quota.”

        Sgt. Steve Watt, president of the deputies' FOP Lodge 84, said the local union has never discussed the issue. He added in a statement that he also believes “that our membership has no problem with being held accountable for their performance as deputy sheriffs.”

        The FOP officials said they hope public pressure will persuade Sheriff Leis to stop the plan they said could prompt problems, including more crowded court dockets because of the additional tickets and more assaults on officers by citizens angry about more citations.

        Sheriff Leis said the program would continue.


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