After the recent ticket-fixing scandal - tickets were allegedly fixed when officers who wrote them were persuaded to skip scheduled appearances, or to interfere with cases by admitting forgetfulness when asked to describe the traffic stop - that has left as many as 40 officers facing criminal charges, the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau has cracked the whip on their officers' performances at traffic court cases.
In the past, officers have had nothing at stake when it came to the traffic court cases, resulting in rather laid back, freewheeling performances. With the ongoing investigations in place, however, one false move like forgetting a certain detail at the traffic stop - no matter how genuine the confession of forgetfulness is - can lead to suspicion. This especially poses an issue due to the fact that the traffic cases occur as long as years after the traffic stop - how can anyone recall vivid details from years in the past?
With all the officers practically walking on eggshells in the traffic courts, there is one proposed solution: write fewer tickets. Although this would, according to the New York Times, "undermine the police department's push to squeeze as much productivity as possible," statistics have shown that there has been an 11 percent drop from last year to this year in summonses for moving violations written.
The New York Times has even quoted one law enforcement analyst to be saying "[this investigation is] setting this up in a way that there is not going to be a cop out there who wants to write a summons - it is too personally risky."
Fewer tickets, or the risk of lying at traffic court in order to avoid suspicion? This choice between two poisons is what it ultimately boils down to. Some fear that with the pressure of the close magnifying glass this investigation is putting on the officers, some officers might be tempted to simply fabricate the details they do not remember.
Edward M. Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association is quoted inquiring whether or not the Internal Affairs Bureau is "inadvertently creating an atmosphere of perjury where an officer can't remember but, because of fear of disciplinary action, creates that memory?"
The investigation does not seem to be slowing down any time soon, but there is one thing that can slow down: the process of ticket writing. Officers do not need to give up ticket writing altogether, but rather be sure they have sufficient notes to avoid suspicion or the temptation to lie when it is time for their traffic court case.